Some people scoff at jailhouse lawyers, but they have actually filled a vital role in helping some prisoners get a fair shake in court. Let's be honest here. A lot of prisoners convicted of felonies couldn't afford the top-notch lawyers that other criminals can. They are represented by public defenders who may or may not pull out all the stops in court when it comes to representing their clients to the best of their abilities.
Jailhouse lawyers can actually help with the appellate process, give advice on what to do if they weren't represented well in court and a whole lot more.
Also, what would we rather have prisoners doing? Researching case law and trying to help out other inmates or causing trouble? The notion of people in jail preparing legal documents might seem laughable on the surface, but it is actually a good thing that there are jailhouse lawyers. Hey, let them do their time, go to law school and then put their skills to work representing defendants in criminal courts.