By Katherine Funderburg
A bill swept through the Criminal Justice A committee with very little opposition on Friday of the State Youth and Government Conference. This bill proposed standardizing intellectual disability criteria in the court system and removing the mentally disabled from death row. This bill was written by Anastasia Sotiropoulos from Episcopal School of Dallas, High School.
Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have intellectual disabilities ( specialolympics.org) and there are 2,664 death row inmates in the United States but this number changes regualrly (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc). One man who fell into both camps was Joe Arridy, known as the “happiest man on death row”. Joe Arridy was a mentally disabled 23-year-old who was falsely accused and coerced into confessing to a crime he did not commit. Ariddy had no concept of death or his impending execution reportedly saying “No, no, Joe won’t die”, Sotiropoulos cited in her proposal.
Currently the IQ cut off is at 70 for intellectual disabilities, but this act would add other factors for people with these disabilities; any person under the age of 22 would undergo behavioral testing. “The IQ test is simply not enough to identify if someone is truly intellectually disabled”, Sotiropoulos said. This does not include disabilities like ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, or dysgraphia which are learning disabilities. Intellectual disabilities are disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. Examples of Intellectual disabilities are Autism, Down syndrome, or Fragile X syndrome.
This bill was inspired by Sotiropoulos’s interest in prison reform, a popular topic this year, and that her mother, Dr Catherine Karni, is a child psychiatrist and works with many children with intellectual disabilities daily. She expected this bill to pass because it applies to many people, as most people are related or at the least vaguely know someone with an intellectual disability. People can recondnize that it is unconstustional to try someone in a way they can not comprehend.