Yesterday, Katherine Dwyer, our past Koch Communications Intern, had another article published. In the piece, she described why Idaho’s death penalty statute is in dire need of reform, given that the state allows those suffering from severe mental illnesses to be executed.
Dwyer opened by stating,
Across the country, more and more conservative coalitions are pushing for legislation exempting the mentally ill from the death penalty. To date, Idaho doesn’t have such a law on the books, but we should. Roughly one in three inmates in Idaho prisons are in need of mental health care. With only four mental health facilities statewide, those who suffer from mental illness are limited in their access to treatment, and worse yet, our state allows these people to be sentenced to die, despite their debilitating mental disorders, including schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and delusional disorder. These mental illnesses inhibit an individual’s ability to exercise rational judgment, or recognize the nature, consequences or wrongfulness of their behavior.
She also pointed out that executing those who are severely mentally ill doesn’t deter crime, holds those who aren’t thinking rationally culpable, and wastes valuable resources that could be spent elsewhere to prevent these crimes.
Those suffering from severe mental illness need mental health care, not a death sentence. In order to protect our communities, to provide effective solutions to mental health issues, and to efficiently spend taxpayers’ money, Idaho should exempt the mentally ill from the death penalty. By establishing such an exemption, Idaho can more efficiently use its precious resources on policies that offer real solutions to mental health issues that are plaguing our state.