Ricky Thompson, a mentally ill man who had been on Tennessee’s death row since 1992, died at Centennial Medical Center last Wednesday from natural causes. Thompson’s death sentence had recently been overturned by the state appellate court which ruled that it was obvious the Thompson, a schizophrenic who was in and out of hospitals most of his life, suffered from mental illness. The state was awaiting an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court which kept Thompson on death row.
Thompson killed his wife in 1989 after she took their infant out of the home during an argument. He shot her in the back while she was holding the baby–an unspeakable tragedy for any family to endure. And yet, a deeper issue to be addressed is whether those with mental illness are afforded the treatment that they need in our state. Many do not have access to the mental health care that is so critical to avoiding tragedies such as this one. Ricky Thompson is yet another example of what can happen if we as a society do not invest more in our mental health care systems in order to reach very ill people in time to prevent such violence.
Ricky Thompson’s life was a struggle as he lived in a schizophrenic world, leading him to commit a horrific act. He had continuing health problems while on death row which ultimately led to his death. There are many people just like Ricky Thompson filling up our jails and prisons while not getting the care that they need. We can either choose to make mental health care a priority and spend the money to treat people, or we can spend the money to incarcerate those with mental illness after a crime has been committed. Ricky Thompson’s life is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way. I am grateful that Ricky is free of his illness and his imprisonment and hope that his family can find some peace as well. Read more here.
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