Death Penalty ‘Inappropriate’ For Those With Mental Illness, Report Says
The death penalty is “inappropriate” for people with mental illness and a focus on such punishment rather than preventive treatment contributes to violence, charges a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.
The report titled “Double Tragedies” is based on interviews with family members of murder victims and families of those with mental illness who have been executed. Members of both of these groups are coming together for the first time to oppose the death penalty and advocate an improved mental health care system.
The report calls the death penalty “inappropriate and unwarranted” for people with mental illness. Further, it says the practice is “a distraction from problems within the mental health system that contributed or even directly led to tragic violence.”
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In many cases documented in the report, people with mental illness were only provided treatment after committing murder.
Already the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed the death penalty unconstitutional for those with mental retardation and juvenile offenders. But more than 100 people with mental illness have been put to death and hundreds more are currently on death row.
In order to change the current cycle, the report recommends banning the death penalty for people with severe mental illness, establishing a focus on treatment and creating better support and understanding for families on both sides of any violence involving a person with mental illness.
“Most people with mental illness are not violent,” said NAMI executive director Mike Fitzpatrick. “When violent tragedies occur they are exceptional — because something has gone terribly wrong, usually in the mental health care system. Tragedies are compounded and all our families suffer.”
The full report can be found by clicking here.