Co-Founder & Decarceration Counsel
federal lawyer • anti-carceral policy strategist • constitutional law expert
MiAngel Cody picks locks to human cages. As the Founder and Lead Counsel for The Decarceration Collective law office, Attorney Cody is nationally recognized for her dedicated defense of men and women sentenced to die in federal prison. She has defended hundreds of people in federal court and achieved a range of courtroom victories, from jury acquittals to successful federal appeals to significantly reduced sentences. She has won freedom for 19 prisoners serving life sentences for drug offenses, including 6 successful presidential clemencies.
Ms. Cody has also witnessed the flaws in America’s criminal judicial system. She has seen incarcerated fathers and mothers kiss children goodbye. She’s watched judges lament that mandatory sentencing laws left them hamstrung with no discretion. She’s seen people leave prison with no ID card, no home, no medicine, no methadone, no health insurance, no bus card, no education and no job prospects. She’s witnessed a system dehumanize humans and, in doing so, become dehumanized itself. Ultimately, she has stood with many people as they were sent into cages. And she’s received desperate calls when those same people returned from prison with nothing.
In 2018, Ms. Cody received the prestigious Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship. In 2014, she received the Federal Bar Association’s National Younger Federal Lawyer of the Year Award. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC, Chicago Tribune, Amazon’s Audible Series and CNN.
She worked as an Assistant Federal Defender in Chicago for eight years. Prior to joining the Federal Defender’s Office, Ms. Cody was a commercial litigator at an AmLaw 200 law firm. She served in two federal clerkships: for the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Myron Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama. Ms. Cody received her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and she received her undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana. Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Cody was a capital defense investigator and spent seven years listening to the stories of death row prisoners in Louisiana and Georgia. Ms. Cody believes the Sixth Amendment demands the highest caliber of representation to those with the least financial means, especially when their freedom or life is at stake.
PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
- “‘But the Legislation Doesn’t Go Far Enough’: It’s Time to Check Our Unincarcerated Privilege in the Conversation About Sentencing Reform” May 24, 2016. The Huffington Post.
- “Combatting Racial and Ethnic Injustice in the American Criminal Justice System,” National Seminar For Federal Defenders, May 27, 2015
- “Winning Theories for Mental Health & Mitigation in Sentencing,” Administrative Office of the Courts Federal Defender Seminar, May 14, 2015
- “Death by Imprisonment: America’s War on Melanin Possession and the Indigent” Aug. 3, 2014. The Huffington Post.
- “Changing Sentences, Changing Lives: Reinvigorating Presidential Clemency to Dismantle Mass Incarceration,” ACLU/FAMM Keynote, Washington, D.C., May 2014
- “Constitution USA: The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel,” PBS documentary series featured constitutional expert, May 2013
- Federal Bar Association Younger Federal Lawyer of the Year Award (2014)
- Excellence in Public Service Award, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (2014)
- Xavier University of Louisiana 40 Under 40 Alumni Awards Honoree (2016)
- Excellence Award – Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago (2017)