This is both a book and a movie that you need to interact with. Particularly in a day and age when there is a movement here in Canada to try to bring the death penalty back. The book is much more in depth than the movie. The book profiles the first three men that Sr. Prejean goes to the death chamber with as Spiritual Director. It profiles her mistakes as she journeys down this path for the first few times. She witnessed her first execution on April 5th, 1984 and she has been advocating against the death penalty since then.
The book does a great job of showing the disparity in how the death penalty is applied. It goes through the studies on its lack of effectiveness, and how for the most part, it is the poor and the African-American who are on death row. Even if you only read the appendices, the book will challenge you to view the death penalty in a different way.
The movie was the inspiration and starred Susan Sarandon. Sarandon was given the book while on a personal retreat at a monastery; she came home and gave the book to her partner, Tim Robbins, who directed the film. Together they approached Sr. Prejean, who went out and rented Bull Durham. She was a little leery of having them do the film, but after meeting with them went ahead with the project.
The film co-stars Sean Penn as Matthew Poncelet, a compilation of the 3 men in the book. The movie, while slow moving, is incredibly intense and draws you into the drama of waiting for a death when you know the date and time of that approaching death.
As an interesting aside, another good book is Forgiving the Dead Man Walking by Debbie Morris, who was one of the victims of Robert Lee Willie from the book. Debbie always said if they ever made a movie, Penn would have to play Willie because they looked so much alike.
So read the book and watch the movie, and if you want yet another challenging book, give Forgiving the Dead Man Walking a read also.