Honoring the request of a lonely and desperate man, Sister Helen Prejean writes to Matthew Poncelet, the condemned killer of two teenage lovers, and is wholly unprepared for the relationship which will follow. When the date is set for Matthew's execution, he asks Sister Helen to be his spiritual advisor and she complies. As she comes to see the terrified human beneath Matt's brash, unrepentant facade, Sister Helen becomes increasingly disturbed, not only by the terrible anguish he suffers during the long countdown, but by the rage of the victims' families, who seek retribution for their unbearable loss. With his scheduled execution fast approaching, she struggles for the life, the dignity, and the soul of a confused and angry man. In the end, it is her faith and her fierce courage that sustains her when she stands with Matthew and with the victims' families.