Jesus and the disciples are confronted with a man who is not in his right mind. How has the community dealt with this man? How does Jesus deal with him?
In this case, the community has criminalized the man while Jesus addresses his illness and treats him. In the book, “Prisons of the Mind”, prison abolitionist Amanda Pustlinik observes that prisons are used as a “default asylum” for many individuals with mental illness. She asks, “”why do governmental units choose to spend billions of dollars a year to concentrate people with serious illnesses in a system designed to punish intentional law-breaking, when doing so matches neither the putative purposes of that system nor most effectively addresses the issues posed by that population?”
Consistent with her assessment, almost 50% of the inmates at Cook County Jail have some kind of mental illness. Why do you think we have chosen incarceration over treatment for these people? Why do you think Jesus acts differently from the community? What do you think Jesus would say about our current treatment of people with mental illness?
In 2002, the US Supreme Court declared that the execution of the mentally ill or those with cognitive disabilities was unconstitutional. However, there are still people at risk. It all depends on how “mental retardation” (the jargon still used in the judicial system) is defined. Warren Hill was scheduled for execution July 15, 2013, in Georgia. Despite having an IQ of 70, Mr. Hill’s lawyers were unable to meet Georgia’s high threshold to prove his cognitive disability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” He was not executed as planned after his lawyers challenged it on other grounds and he was given a reprieve. As of February 17, 2014, his case was still being reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court.