Weekly Rights Review: Rights for Prisoners, Protesters, and Students

July 26, 2013

The ACLU of Michigan has filed suit on behalf of a peaceful protester who was arrested under a law that doesn’t even exist, the ACLU and a conservative think tank have agreed on an important state and national issue, and a state university has taken an amazing step forward in the world of equal education and opportunities.

At the same time, hundreds of Americans are being mentally tortured in solitary confinement, a practice that must be stopped or changed ASAP.

Michigan News

Activist Unconstitutionally Arrested
In order to protect free speech rights of protestors, the ACLU of Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an animal rights activist who was arrested by Birmingham police because she did not “keep moving” while peacefully demonstrating on a public sidewalk. As it turns out, there is no city ordinance or state law that requires individuals to “keep moving” while expressing First Amendment rights.

The ACLU of Michigan is asking a federal judge to rule that the activist’s arrest was unconstitutional and that the police violated her First Amendment rights to protest and Fourth Amendment rights to not be arrested without probable cause of committing a crime.

Government Transparency: The Obvious Choice
When the ACLU and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (a very conservative think tank) agree so strongly on an issue, you know it has to be a big deal. This Wednesday, our legislative director, Shelli Weisberg, participated in a panel discussion addressing government transparency hosted by the Mackinac Center.

The discussion covered issues such as violations of the Open Meetings Act and difficulties in obtaining public information from government agencies due to long waiting times and high costs for FOIA requests. The panelists advocated for harsher punishments for public bodies who do not comply with FOIA laws and for the passing of legislation to hold the government more accountable and expand the power of FOIA.

U-M In-State Tuition Granted to All Local Students
In a great victory for educational equality, the University of Michigan has granted in-state tuition rates to all local students regardless of immigration status.

Now, all students who attended a Michigan middle school for at least two years and a Michigan high school for at least three years will qualify for in-state tuition at U of M, which costs almost $30,000 a year less than the out-of-state tuition.  Under the new policy, the University will provide greater educational opportunities to bright and deserving students who have grown up down the street from U of M and previously would not have been able to afford the costs of the prestigious school because of their immigration status. In addition, the policy will heighten the quality of our state and nation’s future workforce and ensure a vibrant and diverse student body.

National News

Horrifying Conditions of Solitary Confinement
The ACLU is bringing attention to the horrifying and mentally torturous conditions of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. Individuals who are placed in solitary confinement live in cells the size of parking spaces for around 23 hours a day, are given food through a slot in the door, often sleep in beds that are an arm distance away from their toilets, and receive no human contact.

Some prisoners are placed in solitary confinement for decades and it has been proven that long-term solitary confinement is highly expensive, does not rehabilitate prisoners, and propagates mental illnesses. The ACLU has released A Death before Dying, which details the terrible effects of solitary confinement that often lead to complete losses of mental stability and suicide attempts in death row inmates. In California, over 30,000 prisoners have begun a hunger strike to protest the torturous long-term solitary confinement of hundreds of people in their state, some for very trivial infractions.

Stand against the inhumane practice of long-term solitary confinement with these brave individuals and pressure the California Corrections Secretary by signing this petition.