Tag Archive: A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual

What It Takes To Be a Jailhouse Lawyer

Mass-Incarceration-JLH-Photo

‘For $12 of Commissary, He Got 10 Years Off His Sentence.’

 

From The Marshall Project / By Beth Schwartzapfel

In 1980, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Jerry Hartfield’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial. But the trial never happened. Twenty-six years later, Hartfield crafted a handwritten petition arguing, essentially, he was serving time for a crime he was no longer convicted of. The person who helped him craft the petition? His cellmate, a jailhouse lawyer. It took almost ten years, but it worked: Hartfield’s new trial started this week.

“Jailhouse lawyer” is an informal term for a prisoner who helps other inmates with legal filings. And in most places, the help is just that: informal. Though the term is occasionally used synonymously with “hack” (“a lawyer who throws out any and all arguments, even blatantly wrong ones,” according to Urban Dictionary), jailhouse lawyers have been at the heart of several key legal victories: the right to an attorney, the right to be protected from abuse by other prisoners and by guards, and the right to free exercise of religion. In his book Jailhouse Lawyers, Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps America’s most well-known jailhouse lawyer, described the practice as “law written with stubs of pencils…law learned in a stew of bitterness, under the constant threat of violence, in places where millions of people live, but millions of others wish to ignore or forget.” (more…)

Seven Books Every American Prisoner and Criminal Attorney Should Own

Prison-GrievancesFrom Blog Critics

It’s not always easy to locate quality legal books about prison law or prisoners’ rights. For starters, the field is a highly specialized one in which many like to call themselves experts, but few are worthy of such a designation. To make matters worse, lives depend on what is read and put into application. Even from a practical level, law books are often so expensive that simply purchasing several of them in pursuit of the right set is plainly cost prohibitive.

In an effort to cut through all of the blatant self-promotion and other unworthy antics, presented below are seven best buys in the prison law and prisoners’ rights arenas. Every criminal defense attorney, prison consultant, and American prisoner should have a copy of each and every one of these books. After all, their lives or the lives of their clients might just depend on it. (more…)