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Race, Gender, Class, and Mental Disability Law

Individuals with mental disabilities have traditionally been and continue to be subjected to rights violations and pervasive discrimination because of their mental disabilities. For individuals who are racial minorities and/or are women, and/or without economic means, and/or not from the dominant culture, the struggles to overcome these rights violations and discrimination are even greater precisely because of their race and/or gender and/or social class and/or culture. The confluence of mental disability, gender, race, culture, and class often result in unique legal issues that have a far-reaching impact on virtually every aspect of their lives.

This course will focus on the unique legal issues that these individuals face because of these relationships, such as the impact of the interrelationship of these factors, both in the context of American and international law, on a full array of legal issues affecting this population: civil commitment; institutional rights; access to counsel; forensic mental health topics including incompetency to stand trial, the insanity and other related defenses, sentencing, and related issues, and the death penalty; domestic violence; abuse and neglect; trafficking of women with mental disabilities for slavery; individual rights and personal autonomy including sterilization, the right to engage in consensual sexual interaction, the right to marry, the right to have and raise children; barriers to the availability of community-based benefits and supports and services, including mental health and general medical care; and access to public accommodations.