Jailhouse Lawyer

Jailhouse lawyer by kevin pyle

Jailhouse lawyer is a colloquial term in North American English to refer to an inmate in a jail or other prison who, though usually never having practiced law nor having any formal legal training, informally assists other inmates in legal matters relating to their sentence (e.g. appeal of their sentence, pardons, stays of execution, etc.) or to their conditions in prison. Sometimes, he or she also assists other inmates in civil matters of a legal nature. The term can also refer to a prison inmate who is representing themselves in legal matters relating to their sentence.

The important role that jailhouse lawyers play in the criminal justice system has been recognized by the US Supreme Court, which has held that jailhouse lawyers must be permitted to assist illiterate inmates in filing petitions for postconviction relief unless the state provides some reasonable alternative. Many states have ‘Jailhouse Lawyer Statutes,’ some of which exempt inmates acting as lawyers from the licensing requirements imposed on other attorneys when they are helping indigent inmates with legal matters. Cases brought by inmates have also called attention to the need for jailhouse lawyers to have access to law libraries.

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