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NCD: Forced Drugging of Inmates 'Cruel & Unusual'

The National Council on Disability has issued a statement that stops just short of calling the forced psychiatric drugging of inmates "cruel and unusual punishment and hence unconstitutional."

Yesterday's statement is a response to the case of Texas Death Row inmate Steven Kenneth Staley, who will be physically forced to take anti-psychotic medication to make him "competent enough to be executed," following a mid-April ruling by Texas District Judge Wayne Salvant -- a ruling that came nearly two months after he stopped Staley's execution because, he said, Staley, who has been diagnosed as "a paranoid schizophrenic," was "too mentally ill" to be executed.

Texas law requires a prisoner sentenced to execution be "mentally competent."

"The whole idea of holding somebody down and injecting them so that we can then say, with a straight face, this person is now competent so we can kill them, I think that smacks of an Orwellian-Soviet-style approach to criminal justice," said Jack Strickland, Staley's attorney. "Most people, even conservatives, would find that very offensive."

According to the statement issued by NCD,

In 2003, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals permitted officials in Arkansas to forcibly administer medication to control an inmate’s behavior, making him “competent” enough to be executed. . . .

In Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executions of people with cognitive disabilities found guilty of a crime are “cruel and unusual punishments” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.


Statement Regarding the Forced Drugging of a Texas Inmate with a Psychiatric Disability (NCD press release)

Report: From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves (NCD, 2000)

Forced medication ordered for Death Row inmate (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)