The death penalty is a broken system. A clear example of this is that despite the Supreme Court ruling over ten years ago that it is unconstitutional to apply the death penalty to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, those affected by severe mental illness can still be executed. As Catholics, we are called to uphold the dignity of all life, and protect the most vulnerable among us – and that means working to give those who are affected by severe mental illness the support and care they need to flourish, something we are unable to achieve with the punitive practice of the death penalty.
In response to our call to live where justice and mercy meet, CMN will be working closely with states working to pass Severe Mental Illness (SMI) exemption bills. Several states have SMI bills planned to go before their legislatures in 2017, and CMN will keep you informed of ways you can raise your voice to support these efforts.
In December of 2016, CMN participated in a National Summit on Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty sponsored by the ABA’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project, Equitas, Georgetown University Prisons & Justice Initiative, & the Proteus Fund. This conference give us the opportunity to share the Catholic perspective on this issue and learn how Catholics can best advocate for these exemption bills within select states.
Catholics in Tennessee, Idaho, Ohio and Indiana will soon have the opportunity to reach out to their legislators to ask them to vote for legislative bills that would categorize any person diagnosed with a severe mental illness as being ineligible for the death penalty.
Legislative sessions in each state begin the latter part of January and last for only a month to two months. It is vitally important for Catholics in these four pivotal states to communicate to their legislators, by phone calls, letters, post cards or emails, how important it is to vote so that those diagnosed with these debilitating illnesses cannot receive the harshest of penalties, but receive the treatment and support they need. CMN will continue to provide more information and updates on SMI exemption bills as the year progresses.