Mental Illnesses and the Death Penalty

March 1, 2017
By , Valley Cottage, NY

Tragedies happen everyday; deaths of family members, car accidents, and murders. In these situations it’s important to focus on the freedom of the individual and the needs of the group. However, it’s more important to focus on the needs of the group rather than the freedom of the individual. For example, a person who has a mental illness and kills someone should be put on death row because it gives closure to family/friends, there is equality for all, and murder is still murder.


Sentencing the mentally ill can give family and friends closure. It can also provide peace of mind. In Ayn Rand’s Anthem, Equality 7-2521 faces the challenge of living together in a society. He cannot think for himself and he disagrees with the importance of the needs of the group. In this case the needs of the group is extremely important, “We… were not happy… this is a great sin… it is not good to be different from our brothers” (Rand 21). Rand states that it is a sin to be different from everyone else and no one is happy unless everyone is the same. If someone with a mental illness kills somebody it can help the group/family recover from what happened and they can receive closure. Just like living together in a society is beneficial for the group.

Everyone in the world should be equal. No citizen should be superior to another citizen. This is not the case when it comes to the death penalty for mentally ill people; “Activist for the rights of the mentally ill and retarded often say they are just like everyone else, and that they should be treated like everyone else. However, when they commit a crime they are not treated like everyone else: they are allowed to, quite literally, get away with murder” (“Death Penalty Exemption for Mentally ill”).  In some cases people who are mentally ill are not put in jail or executed. They get away with the crime they committed because of their illness. But, the crime could have been prevented if the person with the illness was getting help or in a place that provides help.

 In Anthem, Equality 7-2521 is punished for doing something he was not supposed to be doing in his society; “Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention. Lash them until they tell” (Rand 64). Equality 7-2521 was out in the tunnel and he is not supposed to be there. Someone who kills another person should be put on the death penalty no matter what. It should not be exempt for mentally ill people because the death penalty is the punishment for doing something wrong in the society.

 Many people can argue against this. In this situation people think the freedom of the individual is more important. A lady named Sarah Swig had a brother who had an illness and killed somebody. He went on deathrow and Swig said, “Where is the justice in killing a sick human being?” (Swig). The Huffington Post posted an article stating that the mentally ill should get what they deserve and they deserve help, hope, and their families. This can be true but, people that argue against the death penalty in this situation don’t see what happens to the victim’s families. They are hurt and they need closure. The death penalty can create closure knowing that, that person could never do something so inhumane like that again.

The book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is about freedom and wisdom. Siddhartha believes everyone has the right to choose their own path and be free, “I, also, would like to look and smile, sit and walk like that, so free, so worthy, so restrained, so candid, so childlike and mysterious” (Hesse 27). Everyone does have the right to be free but  if they kill someone it does not matter, they do not deserve to live after what they did.

Different accidents happen all of the time. The needs of the group is definitely more important than the freedom of the individual. Especially when a mentally ill person kills another person. Just like anyone else they deserve to serve the death penalty. This helps families get closure, it shows there is equality for all, and just because they’re sick does not mean they can get away with what they have done. Murder is still murder. The freedom of the individual should not be thought about in this case.

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