Why should we care about mental health of death row prisoners? | In Focus podcast

The welfare of convicts who have been sentenced to death is probably the last, if at all it figures, in anyone’s list of welfare priorities. Since their entire identity gets reduced to one act -- the crime they are accused of – they are generally dehumanised, and people find it difficult to understand why we should care about the mental health of someone convicted of, say, gang-rape or a brutal murder – the ‘rarest of rare’ cases where the death penalty is invoked.

But there are problems in the way the criminal justice system deals with the mental health of under-trials and prisoners, and perhaps nobody is more victimised by systemic issues than prisoners on death row. A new report, titled, ‘Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty’ has come up with empirical data on mental illness and intellectual disability among death row prisoners in India. The study, which is the first of its kind, has found that an alarming 62% had a mental illness and 11% had intellectual disability. Given that most of these convicts are from marginalized communities with poor socio-economic and educational indicators, the report raises some hard questions about equity, justice and the responsibility of the courts, the prison system, the State and society at large towards protecting the dignity of those deemed ‘deathworthy’.

We speak with the project head and lead author of this study in this episode.

Guest: Maitreyi Misra, Founder of Project 39A at National Law University, New Delhi

Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 12:07:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/why-should-we-care-about-mental-health-of-death-row-prisoners-in-focus-podcast/article37683460.ece

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