Sister Helen received her B.A. in English and Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College in 1962 and her M.A. in Religious Education from St. Paul’s University in 1973. She began her prison ministry while working among the poor of New Orleans in 1981. She is the author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.
Her first book, Dead Man Walking, made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List, was #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for 31 weeks, and has been translated into ten languages. The book was turned into an award-winning movie in 1996, putting Sister Helen in the national spotlight.
She is the founder of “Survive”, a group that advocates for death row inmates and counsels their families, board member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, member of Amnesty International and Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation, and Chairperson of Moratorium Campaign. In 2000, she was part of a group that presented the U.N. Secretary General with 2.5 million signatures of people wanting to end the death penalty worldwide.