Mental Illness on Death Row
- Mental illness is defined as "Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma."
- Since 1983, over 60 people with mental illness or retardation have been executed in the United States.
- It is conservatively estimated that 5-10% of death row inmates suffer from serious mental illness.
- Research has shown that nearly all Death Row inmates suffer from brain damage due to illness or trauma, while a vast number have also experienced histories of severe physical and/or sexual abuse.
- Mental illness is not only a problem on Death Row. In 1998, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that 283,000 mentally ill individuals were incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons.
Amnesty International. "The execution of mentally ill offenders." 31 Jan. 2006.
In-depth report on United States' executions of the mentally ill. Includes definitions of terminology, explanations of common and relevant mental conditions, primary-source quotations, current national and international statistics, and recommendations by an American Bar Association task force. The report finds and provides startling new information such as that 5-10% of today's Death Row inmates suffer from serious mental illness; it also draws unique connections between certain states' mental health funding and execution rates.
Human Rights Watch. "Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness." Sept. 2003.
Detailed report with unique sections dedicated to legal standards and policies, self-injurious behavior, inadequate mental health care in prisons, the effects of solitary segregation on mentally ill prisoners, mental illness in female prisoners, and coping difficulties of mentally ill inmates. Also includes case studies and recommendations to Congress, public officials, community leaders, prison staff, and the general public.
Malone, Dan. "Cruel and Inhumane: Executing the Mentally Ill." Amnesty Magazine. Fall 2005.Presents the argument that, in light of recent legislation barring executions of juvenile or mentally retarded inmates, similar policies must be applied to the mentally ill, at least in cases where the actions and thought-processes of a mentally ill defendant resemble those of a juvenile or one who is mentally retarded. Includes responses to arguments which claim that current laws are sufficient for protection of the mentally ill. Concludes that "A society that denies mental health care to those who need it the most and then subsequently executes them is cruel and inhumane at its very core."
Amnesty International. "James Colburn: mentally ill man scheduled for execution in Texas." 16 Oct. 2002.
Amnesty International. "'Where is the compassion?': The imminent execution of Scott Panetti, mentally ill offender." 2004.
Kelsey Patterson Amnesty International. "Another Texas injustice: The case of Kelsey Patterson, mentally ill man facing execution." 18 Mar. 2004.
Amnesty International. "Time for humanitarian intervention: The imminent execution of Larry Robison." 1999.
Stone, Alan A., M.D. "Condemned Prisoner Treated and Executed." Psychiatric Times. Mar. 2004.
Ford v. Wainwright, No. 477 U.S. 399 (1986)
Supreme Court case which banned executions of the insane. Though the legislation is progressive, it is criticized for being too superficial--for defining insanity too loosely, leaving determination up to each individual state, and in general being insufficiently applicable.
News-friendly clipart on the topic of incarceration of mentally ill individuals.
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