National Summit on Severe Mental Illness & the Death Penalty


On December 6 & 7, 2016, Equitas, the American Bar Association, and Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative convened experts from 16 states and the District of Columbia to address Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty. The Summit was held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

View the Severe Mental Illness & the Death Penalty Course Corrections Document.

Equitas and our partners are grateful for the contributions from the event participants.

Who Attended?

Mental health advocates from 16 states, some with existing coalitions to achieve a SMI exemption from the death penalty, capital defenders and litigators, national experts, scholars and partners in mental health and policy reform, including representatives from the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project and others, Colorado Department of Human Services, Merage Foundations, Colorado Public Defender, American Psychological Association, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Georgetown University Prisons and Justice Initiative, Faith in Public Life, Georgetown University, The Arc of the United States, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Death Penalty Information Center, Catholic Mobilizing Network, The Arc of the United States, Skadden Arps, The Constitution Project, Perry Family Health Center, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Catholics Mobilizing Network, UCDC, NAMI-Boise, ACLU of Idaho, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, American Bar Association, Hoosier Alliance for Serious Mental Illness Exemption, NAMI Indiana, KY Dept. of Public Advocacy, Catholic Mobilizing Network, RDieter Communications, NCPD, ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights NC, UNM School of Law, Federal Public Defenders of New York, HEARD, University Hospitals, Ohioans to Stop Executions, Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Justice 360, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Minnehaha County Public Defender, Johns and Kosel Law Office, TASMIE, Vanderbilt University, Texas Defender Service, Themis Fund, Texas Defender Service, Treatment Advocacy Center, Institute of Law, Psychiatry, & Public Policy @ University of Virginia, National Alliance on Mental Illness (National), Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Mental Health America, and others.

Visit our blog for more on the reasoning behind and practical goals of the Summit.


View the full Summit agenda here.


Selected Presentations:


December 6, 2016

What Is Severe Mental Illness and How Is it Assessed by Mental Health Professionals?

Snapshot of the Severe Mental Illness Exemption Reform Efforts in 2017

Keynote Luncheon – Georgetown University Hotel: Taking Action on the National Consensus to End the Execution of Individuals with Severe Mental Illness. Videos feature:

  • Hilarie Bass, J.D., President-Elect, American Bar Association
  • Deanne Ottaviano, J.D., General Counsel, American Psychological Association
  • Ronald S. Honberg, J.D., National Director, Policy and Legal Affairs, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Litigating Capital Cases of Individuals with Severe Mental Illness

Legal Arguments for the Severe Mental Illness Exemption

Cross-Disability Considerations and Consequences in the Criminal Legal System

December 7, 2016

The Role of Mental Health Professionals in Death Penalty Cases

The Severe Mental Illness Reform Effort from the Advocates’ Perspective: Priorities, Challenges and Tips on How to Engage Effectively with the Mental Health Community

For more on Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty:

Review the Catholic News Agency’s report mentioning the Keynote Luncheon & National Summit.

View our compendium of resources here.

The National Summit on Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty is a collaboration of the following organizations:







With support from:



Sponsor this event:




Dec 06 2016 - Dec 07 2016


Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *