A number of organizations across the country prepared a submission for the UN International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement (UN EMLER) describing the United States’ racially discriminatory policy and practice of Death by Incarceration. The UN EMLER was established in response to the mass popular uprisings following the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and conducted its first, historic visit to the United States in April and May, 2023. The submission to UN EMLER supplements the complaint several organizations sent to UN independent experts on September 15, 2022, which was also submitted to EMLER. The submission describes these sentences as a form of torture prohibited under international law and urges EMLER to call for an end to all Death-by-Incarceration sentences in the United States.
The submission describes Death by Incarceration as the devastating consequence of a cruel and racially discriminatory criminal legal system that begins with violent policing and ends with the permanent abandonment of people in prisons, where lives—particularly Black lives—are cut short by the social, medical, and psychological consequences of incarceration. This sentence impacts not only individuals, but entire communities, rupturing family ties and perpetuating intergenerational cycles of poverty and pain. This system is not driven by respect for life. It is not designed to address harm, violence, and its root causes, but compounds them, and in fact diverts resources and political will away from systems that do. Instead, it is rooted in the legacy of slavery and racial hierarchy in the United States and is designed to satisfy the racist political pressure to be tough on crime.
*Submission partners include: Abolitionist Law Center, Amistad Law Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Center for Constitutional Rights, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic, DROP LWOP Coalition, Families United to End LWOP, Release Aging People in Prison, Right to Redemption, and The Sentencing Project.