June 7, 2019
In January, the National Council expanded its activities to include legal work under our guiding principle:
nothing about us without us. We will amplify our message of prison
abolition by engaging in impact litigation, giving testimony before Congress and state legislatures, filing administrative complaints, and any other activity that will enable us
to vindicate the rights of those ensnared in the criminal legal system.
Most recently, we urged a federal appeals court to reconsider its disastrous opinion that
said Michigan could suspend driver’s licenses of drivers who cannot afford to pay their
court debt. Two Michigan drivers had sued Michigan, arguing that the suspension policy
was unconstitutional. The lower court ordered Michigan to stop suspending licenses of
people too poor to pay but the Sixth Circuit, which sets federal law for Michigan,
Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky, took that victory away.
Dēmos, a non-profit organization that develops and implements progressive ideas to
promote social justice, partnered with us in submitting this “friend of the court” brief.
We explained why the judges’ decision was incorrect legally and harmful to the people
living in the Sixth Circuit. Our brief highlighted the story of National Council member
whose driver’s license was suspended twice, costing her a well-paying job and with it any
chance of ever paying the government back. We wanted the judges to face the human
cost of their decision.
Like everything else the National Council does, all our legal work will amplify the voices
of women and girls behind bars and those who have made it home. Our ultimate goal is
to shut down the prison-industrial complex. This is not an easy task. It will take time
and resources. The defendants in our cases will use every legal trick in the book to stop
us. But we are determined to make sure those in power will have to answer for their
treatment of incarcerated women and girls.