Monday, March 21, 2011

Dead Man Walking & the end of Capital Punishment in Illinois

"Forgiveness is never going to be easy. Each day it must be prayed for and struggled for and won."

Above is one of my favorite quotes from the book, Dead Man Walking. I read Dead Man Walking after meeting the spunky charismatic nun and author, Sister Helen Prejean. I met Prejean in 2008 during her visit to DePaul University to support students working on Anti-Death Penalty legislation for the the state of Illinois. Listening to her speak about innocent men put to death, the disproportionate application of the penalty on poor and minority people, and its overall financial drain on tax payer money was heartbreaking.

A couple months later, I found myself heartbroken all over again as I finally read Dead Man Walking. The book chronicles Prejean's journey of becoming the spiritual advisor of two death row inmates; Patrick Sonnier and Robert Willie. Additionally, it sheds light on social inequalities and crime Prejean observes while living in the housing projects of New Orleans. Despite the book being repetitive at times, I found it engaging. Her ability to intertwine well researched statistics and information with her spiritual beliefs rooted in biblical text is unprecedented.

Three years later I share my influential encounter with Prejean and her book because of Governor Pat Quinn's decision to abolish capital punishment in the state of Illinois earlier in March. I am truly overjoyed that Illinois is now the 16th state in the union to rid itself of the death penalty!

As the signing of the bill moves out of the headlines, I long for Gov. Quinn's decision to influence other states. Richard Dieter of Washington's Death Penalty Information Center is quoted in a Huffington Post article stating that Illinois may have the power to influence other states "...because it was a state that used it, reconsidered it and now rejected it".

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