I recently returned from an NEH-sponsored seminar on punishment at Amherst College. I learned an enormous amount and am full of ideas for papers on punishment.
One moral issue surrounding punishment that has not received enough attention from moral philosophers is the somewhat perverse insistence that those on death row can only be executed if they are competent to be executed. This issue was thrust back in the public eye in the last year or so thanks to the case of Charles Singleton. Singleton was convicted of murder in 1979, and while on death row, he developed symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia: Singleton heard voices that threatened to kill him, and came to believe that he was the center of a vast corporate and government conspiracy. The state of Arkansas ordered in 1997 that Singleton be given antipsychotic medications which, ironically, reduced his schizophrenic delusions but also enabled him to meet the existing legal standard for competency to execute. That standard, established by the Supreme Court in Ford v. Wainwright, held that an individual is competent to be executed if he understands that he is to be executed and the reasons for his execution. Singleton was executed in January 2004.