DePaul strengthens fight against death penalty
August 26, 2013
By Rachael Hudak
As public support for the death penalty declines and more states move toward abolition, DePaul is joining the national effort to change hearts and minds on this issue.
In the spring, DePaul formalized its relationship with Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., and the Ministry Against the Death Penalty (MADP), joining in the organization’s mission to create systemic change through education, advocacy, discourse, prison reform and abolition of the death penalty throughout the United States.
MADP originated through the work of Prejean, the activist and author whose book “Dead Man Walking” helped fuel the country’s current anti-death penalty movement, and the Congregation of St. Joseph, of which she is a member. Prejean has worked with DePaul since 2011, when she donated her archives to the university. A year later, the John T. Richardson Library made her papers and correspondence available to researchers for academic use.
DePaul’s partnership with MADP will introduce new opportunities for university students, faculty and staff. The collaboration will enhance research, critical thinking and direct experience with issues of justice, the prison system and the death penalty. It also will further connect DePaul to the national initiative to abolish capital punishment.
DePaul will help MADP celebrate this year’s 20th anniversary of “Dead Man Walking.” The book has inspired young people and adults around the country to engage in deep reflection, to create art that generates critical community conversations and to join local and national efforts to abolish the death penalty.
With support from DePaul’s Office of Mission and Values, MADP will have the opportunity to utilize campus technology and digital media resources and work with student interns who are interested in social justice and service learning. DePaul also will connect the MADP staff to peace and justice conferences and programs around the country. MADP plans to nurture existing community partnerships with youth organizations and Catholic high schools, while matching interested low-income communities with free or low-cost resources.
Together with DePaul, MADP is working to bring the book and accompanying resources to schools, libraries, first-year reading conferences, youth centers and urban and rural communities. The hope is to expand the book’s reach, encouraging students to continue to read and discuss it in English literature classes, as well as classes and conversations about government, economics, religion, philosophy and ethics.
MADP is exploring new opportunities for individuals and communities to engage with Prejean’s archives at DePaul. One of the strategies is to distribute letters Prejean received from prisoners on death row to students in classrooms around the country. This will introduce young people to Prejean’s life of activism and encourage them to explore Prejean’s research.
This fall, DePaul will welcome a new part-time coordinator for an additional collaboration between MADP and the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project. The project is now in its 10th season of inspiring dialogue and action on high school and college campuses throughout the country.
To learn more about the 20th anniversary of “Dead Man Walking” and to sign up for MADP’s monthly e-newsletter, visit www.dmw20.org.
Rachael Hudak joined the Office of Mission and Values in May as special projects manager for Prejean and MADP. She will coordinate national programs and events around the 20th anniversary, write a monthly e-newsletter to expand discourse on the death penalty in communities throughout the United States and promote engagement with Prejean’s extensive archives. Hudak invites you to contact her at email@example.com.