Weekly Rights Review: 8/12

August 05, 2011

Our justice system should be a place where freedom has no price and equality prevails. Sometimes reality falls short of these lofty goals, and it's often the most vulnerable who pay the price. This week we've been working hard to guarantee justice for all, representing five people thrown in jail simply for being poor. And they're not the only ones...

Michigan News

Can't pay the fine? Prepare for some time.
You might be familiar with debtors' prisons from dim memories of history class or a Charles Dickens novel. Sadly, we've found that the practice of throwing poor people in jail when they can't pay court fines and fees is alive in modern Michigan.

Without the possibility of a reasonable payment plan or community service, our five clients were forced to go to jail while other defendants walked out of court. The only difference between freedom and a locked cell? Money.

Our justice system is supposed to be a place where people are treated equally. We're not in the 19th century anymore (via the Detroit Free Press).

Calling for justice for juveniles
In an impassioned essay, Wall Street Journal columnist and civil liberties supporter Nat Hentoff wrote to commend our efforts to end juvenile life without parole sentences in our state.

In the essay, Hentoff points out that the US already bans the execution of juveniles, indicating that courts recognize that age does impact responsibility. We're glad that he agrees that ignoring a child’s potential for rehabilitation and imposing so-called "death in prison" sentences are cruel and unusual (via the World Net Daily).

National News

Your Cell Phones Knows Where You've Been. Now Who's It Telling?
Remember our ongoing discussion with the Michigan State Police over our request for records about how they use technology that can copy a cellphone's data? We want to ensure that a legitimate warrant is always required to seach private electronic data.

Last week, we joined 34 other ACLU affiliates filed public records requests around the nation, seeking information about how their local law enforcement agencies are using cell phone location information.

As technology advances more and more rapidly, the public has a right to know how and when our electronic data information is sought and under what standards (via the Blog of Rights).