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Mentally ill but still guilty

June 15, 2007

Re "IQ debate unsettled in death penalty cases," June 11

This article states: "Historically, the law has exempted from criminal punishment people who are mentally ill. If they were disturbed or delusional when they committed the crime, they presumably could not understand the consequences of their acts and therefore would not be considered legally responsible."

Little could be further from the truth. The reality is that our criminal law makes precious little provision for the mentally ill. Indeed, state authorities estimate that as of 2006, 20% of all California state prison inmates suffered from severe mental illness. The logic and social consciousness inherent in the statement is admirable, but it remains sharply at odds with the "tough on crime" mantra that has produced an explosive rise in the prison budget and inmate population and takes little or no account of moral culpability.

MARK ARNOLD

Kern County

Public Defender

Bakersfield

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