invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

andrea yates and the death penalty August 8, 2006

Filed under: mental illness,news,stigma,suicide — clementine @ 7:48 pm
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the other day i read an article on the death penalty, it kinda went like this:

“the death penalty in the united states may be hitting a roadblock: the hippocratic oath.condemned inmates in three states have successfully challenged lethal injection as cruel and unusual. for the first time, judges have sided with inmates in ruling that lethal injection has the potential to be unconstitutionally cruel – that without doctors present, the procedure could be inhumane.the problem is that few doctors are willing to do it. ultimately, this could put a halt to the use of lethal injections.”

it reminded me of the many mentally ill in prisons, some of whom sit on death row.  in 2004 it was estimated that about 70,000 inmates in u.s. prisons are psychotic. anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 male and female prison inmates suffer from mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. prisons hold three times more people with mental illness than do psychiatric hospitals, and u.s. prisoners have rates of mental illness that are up to four times greater than rates for the general population.

they sit in a cell, wasting away. some will be put to death. and very few care.

the article also reminded me of the andrea yates verdict. not guilty by reason of insanity. her lawyer, george parnham, called the verdict a “watershed for mental illness and the criminal justice system.”  especially in texas. yes, she drowned her five children. i cannot imagine. but this is a woman who previously attempted suicide and on one occassion, put a knife to her neck and begged her husband to let her die. a severely mentally ill woman. several hospital stays and medications, none of which worked, obviously. people forget this is an illness or they choose to believe it’s not an illness. they see a woman who tragically ended the lives of her five  young children. period. most do not look past that fact. it doesn’t matter that she was hallucinating, she thought satan was in her and she was trying to save her children from hell.

this is a woman who was valedictorian of her class, captain of the swim team and an officer in the national honor society. she loved her husband and her children. she attempted to live a “normal” life. at some point, things went terribly wrong. as the days and years passed, her mental illness consumed her. and eventually it destroyed her and everything she knew to be good and true. she still loves her children and i can only imagine how she wishes she could turn back time, she wishes she could hold her children…tell them everything will be ok, mommy is sick. and she needs help. she will live with the pain and guilt for the rest of her life. i wish her peace. and i wish for understanding…of this illness. and i am thankful that at least the jury looked past the deaths and opened their eyes to the simple truth. she did not have cancer. but she had an illness equal to cancer, albeit a complicated illness. the voices in her head won. plain and simple. and what good would it do sitting in a cell, without treatment, wasting away. or the death penalty, like so many wished for her. how fair is that? they should be treated for their illness and not disregarded because we don’t understand the illness.

should she be hospitalized for life? should the many that murder others be hospitalized for life? i don’t have the answer, i lean towards, yes. andrea yates will at least live out her days coming to terms with it all, probably miserable, but nonetheless alive. and cared for. and not dead. or wasting away, ignored.


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