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The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, which, according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ford v. Wainwright (1986), includes the execution of the insane. Thus, it is unconstitutional to execute condemned inmates who become incompetent while on death row while they remain in an incompetent state. Statutes set forth by those states that permit the death penalty often do not include specific guidelines for evaluating competency for execution, and when guidelines do exist, they vary widely. When the issue of an inmate's competency for execution arises, mental health professionals are called on to assist the court in the evaluation of competency for execution and for restoring competency in those found incompetent. Given the nature of the consequences involved, ...

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