Resources on Severe Mental Illness and Death Penalty
Read our Research
2018 Cost Analysis
On June 21, 2018, the ABA Death Penalty Due Process Review Project released “Potential Cost-Savings of a Severe Mental Illness Exclusion from the Death Penalty: An Analysis of Tennessee Data,” which presents a preliminary cost estimate of such an exclusion in the state of Tennessee. While the analysis is limited in its scope and data set, it presents the first reasonable estimation of how much money a state like Tennessee could save if it enacts such a policy—approximately $1.4 to $1.9 million a year. Moreover, this report offers a model methodology for others to apply to their states in order to better assess the public policy effects of a severe mental illness exclusion to the death penalty.
2016 White Paper
On December 6, 2016, the Project released a comprehensive White Paper on Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty. he paper provides a comprehensive examination of how mental illness is currently treated in our capital punishment and criminal justice systems, what is typically meant by "severe mental illness", why current laws are inadequate and contrary to constitutional standards that exist for other vulnerable capital defendants, and why people with severe mental illness should not be subject to the death penalty as a public policy matter.
The Paper also describes the ABA's history working on this issue and why our organization (and many others) have determined that an exemption for severe mental illness is an appropriate and reform to our capital punishment systems. We hope that this Paper will be a great resource for the public, policymakers, lawyers, and others who are concerned about how our justice system treats people with serious mental health disorders.