Project 39A

It conducts research on issues plaguing the criminal justice system, including mental health, legal aid, torture, forensics, and the death penalty, and has intervened in numerous such matters. Its intervention in areas of mental health has led the Supreme Court to direct that death row prisoners have the right to meet mental health professionals. Project 39A’s intervention has resulted in the Supreme Court and various High Courts allowing mitigation investigators to interview death row prisoners to effectively collect and present mitigating circumstances as part of their defence. Its groundbreaking empirical study, Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty, conducted a longitudinal analysis of the life of 88 prisoners on death row and found an unaddressed mental health crisis among death row prisoners, where a strikingly large number (62.2%) were living with at least one mental illness; the most common being Major Depressive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and Substance Use. The findings also highlighted that 11% of the prisoners were found to have a (previously unidentified) intellectual disability. Project 39A has conducted several capacity-building workshops for stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including judges, prison authorities and lawyers. In collaboration with the Delhi Judicial Academy, Project 39A has designed and conducted capacity-building workshops for session judges and magistrates in Delhi. Project 39A conducted a two-day capacity-building work for prison officials, specifically on mental health and prison, in 2017. They have conducted capacity-building sessions for lawyers working with them on issues important to the death penalty, such as forensics evidence and mental health vis-à-vis sentencing. Project 39A has also curated a course on the online learning platform FutureLearn to disseminate mental health and criminal justice knowledge. 

Project with MHI

In partnership with Mariwala Health Initiative, Project 39A will organise a residential training workshop for mental health professionals as part of a year-long regular engagement with the cohort (psychiatric social work, psychology, and psychiatry). The pedagogy of this one-year course will include a residential workshop, quarterly follow-up sessions, and engagement with live cases during the year following the workshop. The workshop and one-year program will be developed in collaboration with faculty from India and the United States, including a detailed curriculum and reading material. 

One 3-day residential workshop will be conducted by Project 39A in December 2024 for a cohort of 20 mental health professionals to build their capacity to assist the defence in death penalty cases. The residential workshop will kickstart the beginning of a one-year program comprising webinars, faculty interaction, and casework. The aim of the course is to address a severe lack of mental health professionals who are familiar with the death penalty law. To ensure holistic defence for prisoners sentenced to death, it is essential to present facets of a death row prisoner’s life that go to essential questions regarding blameworthiness that death penalty sentencing is meant to answer. The course will build the capacities of Mental Health Professionals to provide their expertise to this endeavour. The interdisciplinary faculty for this workshop will include experts from the field of law as well as mental health. 

Head here to find out more about Project 39A.