‘How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?’

Marc Bookman, writing for Mother Jones, tells the gruesome yet sad tale of Andre Thomas:

Death row is not designed for rehabilitation. There are no programs to attend, no degrees to obtain. The main business carried on is waiting. Those lucky enough to come to the row mentally intact may be able to hold themselves together through the years of aloneness by reading, talking to prisoners in nearby cells, or listening to the radio. But inmates like Andre, who are already debilitated by mental illness, do not get better. There are no avenues for it. The cells at Polunsky are smaller than a basketball free-throw lane, the prisoners are on lockdown more than 90 percent of the time, and there is no human contact at all. Andre still wore the mittens to protect his remaining eye, and his meals were brown-bag because he couldn’t be trusted with utensils. He was taking the same medication he had been taking at the state hospital.

I made the mistake of reading this a couple nights ago right before bed, at 1:30 in the morning. As sad and stomach-churning as it is, I think it’s a great piece; the bigger picture here is whether the truly mentally ill — where by “truly”, I mean not me — should be eligible for death sentences. I’ve long been an advocate of abolishing the death penalty, but after reading this, I think the statute of limitations should extend not only to juveniles, but to inmates like Thomas as well.