Weekly Rights Review: Your Bank Account Shouldn’t Influence Your Freedom

June 22, 2013

This week, we are fighting for all Michiganders’ rights to have fair trials and to go to school, regardless of their economic status. In the meantime, more scary (and discriminatory!) massive surveillance is happening, but we’ve got your back on that, too.

Michigan News

Victory in Indigent Defense Legislation!This Wednesday, the Michigan House and Senate passed legislation to fix Michigan’s broken defense system. The legislature passed bills that will allow anyone accused of a crime and cannot afford a lawyer to have a fair trial through the establishment of a permanent commission that will create and enforce statewide indigent defense standards.

Under Michigan’s current indigent defense system, disastrous losses of justice occur because appointed defense attorneys often do not have relevant experience, appropriate resources, adequate funding, or manageable caseloads.

However, these bills, which the ACLU has been involved with for years, will provide counties with financial help and necessary standards that will make Michigan a more just society that protects all of its citizens, regardless of economic status.

Public School Isn't Just for the Rich
The ACLU of Michigan has sent  a letter to Ann Arbor Public Schools asserting that the district’s decision to charge students $100 per semester to take a seventh hour at Huron or Pioneer high schools is misguided and unconstitutional.

Like many school districts in Michigan, AAPS has a large budget shortfall and the board of education passed the proposal that will mandate students to pay for public education (that sounds paradoxical, right?) in order to save the schools $100,000.

Seventh hour at the high schools is technically optional, however many students need to take them in order to participate in supplementary programs, such as music, vocational education programs, or Advanced Placement courses, and still meet graduation requirements. In addition, seventh hour provides students with credits, enriches their education, and makes them more competitive candidates for college admission.

The ACLU believes that people who cannot afford to pay for high school should not receive a lesser education due to their financial situations, public schools should remain free of charge, and school districts should not fill their budget wholes by taking money out of their students’ pockets.

National News

Lawsuit Filed Against Discriminatory Surveillance
The ACLU has sued the New York Police Department for their unconstitutional and discriminatory surveillance of innocent Muslim individuals and communities. The NYPD’s huge religious profiling program has targeted hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers based on their religious faith and practice.

The ACLU’s clients, which include religious leaders, mosques, and charities, have been severely damaged by the NYPD’s biased and ignorant invasions of privacy. Furthermore, the discriminatory surveillance program has led to no leads or terrorism investigations.

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU asks the court to end the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program and to prevent future surveillance based on religion in the absence of individualized suspicion of criminal activity.