How Much Is The Life Of A Mentally Ill Person Worth?

A man allowed his brother to freeze to death and only got a one-year sentence for it.

If that’s not enough to make you angry, that one year isn’t a year in prison or even a year in jail; it’s a year of probation.

Bruce Simmons’ frozen body was emaciated, dressed only in a makeshift diaper, and he was covered in rodent bites and frostbite marks, surrounded in garbage. His brother Ronald “cared” for him by passing him one meal a day through the front door.

Yet apparently, Ronald didn’t want to seek residential treatment for Bruce, who suffered from mental illness, either. Now Bruce is dead, and Ronald has to complete a year of probation.

For comparison, here is a case of one man stabbing another man to death. He got 8 years in prison. The cases aren’t strictly comparable — the second case doesn’t involve brothers and doesn’t involve a person made vulnerable by mental illness. It involves a direct cause of death rather than an indirect one.

However, in both cases the victims are equally dead, and in both cases the accused killers have received their sentences: 8 years in prison for one death and 1 year of probation for the other.

People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be the victims of a crime than they are to be perpetrators. And sentences like these do not help move us away from the abhorrent idea that people with mental illnesses are somehow less than healthy people.

2 Responses

  1. Schurkey

    You said “…the abhorrent idea that people with mental illnesses are somehow less than healthy people.”

    How is that abhorrent? It’s pure logic. They are less-than-healthy because they’re ill. I’d say that is utterly, blindingly obvious.

    1. While human lives are certainly worth different amounts of money (this is how life insurance works), I’m not really willing to assign them higher and lower levels of humanity-worth. I think you should get the same amount of prison time (not probation) for killing sick people, whether they have a cold, diabetes or a mental illness.

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