In June of 2014, Tzili Mor and Daedra Staten of UCLA Law’s Health and Human Rights Law Project, together with students Arifa Raza and Zhifei Li, collaborated with Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization working to end violence in LA County Jails, on a shadow report to the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), coinciding with CERD’s second periodic review of the United States. During such reviews, CERD evaluates U.S. compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The shadow report highlights the frequent discrimination and abuse suffered by inmates of racial and/or ethnic minority groups who have mental health conditions and are incarcerated in LA County jails. Based on interviews with former inmates and other research, the shadow report team documented the mistreatment of numerous LA County jail inmates. Frequently, the abuse fell upon those with intersecting identities: as inmates, as persons belonging to racial/ethnic minority groups, and as individuals with mental health conditions.
For instance, the shadow report emphasizes that Black people with mental health conditions, particularly Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorders and other forms of psychoses, are more likely to be incarcerated than persons of other races. While Black people constitute only 9.6% of the population of Los Angeles, they account for 31% of LA County jail inmates. Once incarcerated, Black inmates with mental health conditions report that Sheriff’s Deputies respond with more hostility to their requests for help. Additionally, Black inmates in LA County jails report receiving harsher sentences and fewer alternative treatment program options compared to their white counterparts.
The aim of the shadow report is to urge CERD to issue concrete recommendations to the U.S., which the U.S. must then implement. CERD’s recommendations should address these intersectional forms of abuse, which have violated international human rights standards and negatively affected the health of this population for far too long.