Brooklyn Law Review


This article carefully examines, through a therapeutic jurisprudence framework, the likely impact of the United States’ ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on U.S. society’s sanist attitudes towards persons with mental disabilities. Although the United Nations ratified the CRPD—the most significant historical development in the recognition of the human rights of persons with mental disabilities— in 2008, the United States has yet to ratify it. In this article, we consider whether the CRPD, if ratified, is likely to finally extinguish the toxic stench of sanism that permeates all levels of society. We argue that it is impossible to consider the impact of anti-discrimination law on persons with mental disabilities without a full understanding of how sanism—an irrational prejudice of the same quality and character of other irrational prejudices, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and ethnic bigotry—permeates all aspects of the legal system, including through judges, jurors, and lawyers, and through the entire fabric of American society. First, we briefly discuss both our sanist past and our sanist present. Then, we consider how the CRPD has the greatest potential for combating sanism, and for changing social attitudes. In doing so we look at five universal core factors that must be considered when evaluating the likely impact of the CPRD. In this latter inquiry, we draw largely on the tools of therapeutic jurisprudence. We conclude by finding that the CRPD demands law reform at the local and national level in the United States and all over the world.