The South Dakota Catholic Conference supports the passage of Senate Bill 159, which would eliminate the death penalty as a possible criminal sentence for those with severe mental illness.  The measure defines severe mental illness as “schizophrenia with psychotic symptoms, major depression with psychotic features, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, posttraumatic stress disorder with psychotic features, or traumatic brain injury with psychotic features.”  Thus, while keeping all other punitive measures available, the bill aims to extend a measure of mercy to those with severely-impeded psychological conditions.  At the same time, the great pain experienced by crime victims and their families should be met with love and compassion.  The bishops of South Dakota extend their deep sympathy to all who experience this grief.  Recognizing the harm of grave crime, civil authorities likewise have a duty to soberly pursue justice, in order to both safeguard society and to hold guilty persons accountable.  Yet the obligation to seek order and justice must give due regard to the sacredness of all life, whose inherent and unconditional value is questioned so frequently  in society today.  Therefore, the Catholic Church calls for a culture of life and opposes the death penalty as an unnecessarily violent tool available to the criminal justice system.  Senate Bill 159 recognizes and advances this aim.

Categories: 2022 Session