Among the most controversial troubles in the society is capital punishment. While some people perceive it as the best structure of punishing the convict, others think that it is not necessary. Notably, the people who foyer for it and those who are against it provide legitimate reasons. In the movie, Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean has succeeded in exploring the criminal justice system concerning capital punishment. Despite the challenges she has confronted in condemning capital punishment, she still hopes to enlighten people that it is wrong and no human being deserves subjection to such variety of torture. Dead Man Walking is an anti-capital punishment movie because of the support that Sister Prejean offers Matthew Poncelet, her advocacy against this type of punishment and her efforts to console with the families of the affected victims.
As a Catholic sister, the society expects that Prejean stands for the truth and advocates for justice. Contrary, she tends to fight for the rights of Matthew, who is a murderer of two teenagers (Ebert). According to several people, this is entirely wrong due to the harm and grief that the offender has caused the families of the victims. Having received a letter from Matthew who was a total stranger, Sister Helen visited him in prison. Based on the interaction she holds with the inmate for the first time, it is clear that Mathew is arrogant and is not regretful for the crime he committed. However, this does not deter her from helping him appeal for his execution. With time, however, they get used to each other, and she becomes his spiritual advisor.
Due to her conviction that capital punishment is wrong, she tries her best to have him forgiven by the criminal justice system. She goes to the extent of writing an application seeking his forgiveness. The relationship created between the sister and the inmate is strange. To many people, she is doing more harm than good because of helping the accused get away with murder. She fails to recognize that Matthew has caused a lot of emotional damage to the family of the deceased. They also deserve justice. The chaplain of the prison even warns her that prisoners tend to manipulate people like her.
When faced with challenges, it is common for human beings to retreat especially when the subject is controversial. However, this was unlike Sister Helen who remained strong regardless of the criticisms from the people. Despite her relentlessness in preventing Matthew from being subjected to capital punishment, she did not succeed. She stood by his side till the last minute. Even though she failed, at least she gave an insight into how such punishments are not worth at any given instance.
The advocacy for anti-capital punishment by Sister Helen is outstanding. Part of her work to stop the murder of Matthew was by writing a pardon application to the justice system. According to her, people need to learn how to forgive in spite of the intensity of the crime. In this case, she tries her best to let the family of the deceased know that the murderer needs to be forgiven. It is the only way that they can gain consolation. This does not sit well with them. They are angry at her and question her friendship with the murderer of their children. Apparently, forgiveness can be very difficult especially when a loved one’s life has been taken away. The murderer did not have good intentions for the deceased. Therefore, the family sees it best to have him murdered as well so that justice is served. Through her actions and words, Sister Helen condemns this type of thinking. In essence, even though the accused is murdered, their children will not be brought back to life. In fact, it will cause more damage since more lives will be lost.
The interaction with the inmate depicts that even though capital offenders should be condemned for their actions, there is need to evaluate the factors that caused their behavior. In this case, the harmful behavior by Matthew is as a result of racism which he rants. Perhaps, if racism did not exist, he would not have committed capital crimes. Sister Helen, therefore, lobbies for people to delve into matters before concluding their fate. She advocates for reconciliation with oneself and the society. Man is not entitled to take another one’s life under any circumstance.
This movie had succeeded in enlightening the public about the irregularities which exist within the criminal justice system. It has exposed some of the events that occur during the trial and execution of justice. The subjection of capital punishment to offenders is not worth because it does not cause judgment to any of the parties involved. It creates a lot of emotional torture to the families of the accused and the deceased. For such reasons, other forms of punishment such as life imprisonment should substitute capital punishments. Probably, the offenders will acknowledge their mistakes, seek forgiveness and advocate for peace in the society.
Ebert, Roger. Dead Man Walking. Ebert Digital LLC. 12 January 1996,
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/dead-man-walking-1996 Accessed 1 November 2017