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How Do I Become a Jailhouse Lawyer?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Leigh
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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There are certain things necessary to become a jailhouse lawyer: knowledge of law, ability to conduct research, and proficiency at filing paperwork. You also have to be incarcerated in a country and facility that provide inmates with the legal right and research tools needed to practice law from within a prison facility. It is not necessary to have formal education in the area of law, though education is often helpful when navigating complicated legal matters. A tenacious personality can be helpful in finding the proper avenues to help yourself or others who are incarcerated.

To become a jailhouse lawyer, you need to be capable of navigating complex laws. Education is helpful for this purpose; a bachelor's degree in a research-related field can help you locate and then understand the information that you are researching. An English degree can be helpful due to the large amount of writing necessary to do the job correctly and efficiently. A law degree is extremely helpful, though harder to attain while incarcerated, but individuals who have a law degree prior to prison often have an easier time when they become a jailhouse lawyer. It is necessary to spend as much time as possible reading cases similar to the one you are interested in to determine the best way to present the case.

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Certain countries do not allow jailhouse lawyers to work on cases while they are in prison. It is necessary to find out about the legal process of the country in which you wish to become a jailhouse lawyer before you will be able to begin working on cases. If you are not allowed access to research materials, records, and writing materials, you will not be able to become a jailhouse lawyer. Individuals who are incarcerated in countries who allow jailhouse lawyers to practice will be provided with these materials when requested.

The next step to become a jailhouse lawyer is to gain an understanding of when and how paperwork needs to be filed. There are many different types of motions, appeals, and claims that you can file to help yourself or another inmate. This requires spending time identifying the best ways to present the case to the courts, which takes persistence, good organization, and the willingness to delve deeply into the laws. You might need to write letters to others outside of the prison system for help and advice, such as advocacy services that help inmates fight for their legal rights or lawyers who help current inmates.

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Logicfest
Post 3

@Soulfox -- That is a tough question to answer, but I will try. First of all, it all depends on the felon. If someone committed one of the more serious crimes (rape or murder, for example), then it would be tougher for that person to become a lawyer than someone who was caught selling marijuana or some other lower grade felony.

Most states do frown on criminal acts, but there are exceptions to every rule. A person who has been released from prison might be able to explain his or her unique situation well enough to be admitted to the bar.

In other words, it can be tough for a reformed criminal to become a lawyer, but it is not impossible.

Melonlity
Post 2

@Solufox -- I would think that it would be tough to become an attorney after getting release from prison. Don't most states prohibit felons from practicing law? Getting all that knowledge is a good thing, but can a felon really hope to become an attorney after getting out of jail?

Soulfox
Post 1

I would be willing to bet that "jailhouse lawyers" that become full fledged attorneys after they are released make some of the best criminal lawyers on the planet. The best attorneys have a passion for what they do, and I would imagine that spending some time in stir would make one passionate about helping others avoid prison, reduce the time they spend there, etc.

Spending years in jail researching criminal law statutes couldn't hurt, either.

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