Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tragedies are compounded

We appreciate the post by blogger Grey Matters on Tucson CItizen.com a couple of days ago about mental illness and the death penalty:

Lately there have been stories in the news about people that were given the death penalty(capital punishment) and executed only to find out later through modern DNA testing that the wrong person was killed. That in and of itself is enough to give pause before taking some one’s life for a crime, but what about when the person is seriously mentally ill and symptomatic when a crime is committed?

Amnesty International believes that “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.”

At the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) annual convention in San Francisco last summer families of murder victims joined with families of persons with mental illness who have been executed to speak out against the death penalty.

Double Tragedies, a report released at the convention, calls the death penalty “inappropriate and unwarranted” for people with severe mental disorders and “a distraction from problems within the mental health system that contributed or even directly lead to tragic violence.”

The report calls for treatment and prevention, not execution. It is available online at www.nami.org/doubletragedies.

A joint project of NAMI and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), the report is based on extensive interviews with 21 family members from 10 states, including Texas which has the highest rate of capital punishment in the United States.

Most people with mental illness are not violent, many preferring to isolate and have little social contact. When violent tragedies occur it’s usually because the person has fallen through the cracks of a broken mental health care system. Tragedies are compounded when all the families involved on all sides suffer. ...

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