Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Tennessee General Assembly Senate Bill 2310

Publication Date



Health Sciences & Nursing, Gordon E. Inman College of


Social Work, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Crowell Thompson

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation


Capital punishment continues to be utilized as a form of judicial sentencing in the Tennessee criminal justice system. Mental health professionals and politicians are realizing the significance of the defendant’s mental health status in relation to crimes committed. Senate Bill 2310 suggests that those who suffer from serious mental illness but are unable to plead not guilty by reason of insanity deserve the state’s protection from the death penalty. The bill currently proposes five mental health disorders for consideration in criminal courts, and they are schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with any of these disorders would not be eligible to receive the death penalty and would instead receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Those who have already been sent to death row prior to July 1, 2022 will be reconsidered and sentenced to life imprisonment if the diagnosis is accepted by the court. While there are limitations to this bill, it is important to note that this piece of legislation aligns with the core values of the social work profession, namely social justice and dignity and worth of the individual. If passed, funds that would be directed towards death row and the capital punishment judicial process would be reallocated to the state, benefiting defendants, other prisoners, and state residents. This paper will analyze SB 2310 in the broader contexts of capital punishment, mental health, social work values, and social work practice in order to determine its necessity in the state of Tennessee.

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