Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Dragan Milovanovic & Jim Thomas
A jailhouse lawyer (JHL) is a prisoner knowledgeable in law who assists other prisoners with their legal needs. JHLs are often self-taught while incarcerated. Some perform their duties as part of their paid institutional job assignment in the prison. They advise other inmates who, unable to attain counsel or other professional help, come to the law library to find assistance with legal issues, such as preincarceration problems with landlords or employers, family problems (divorce, child custody), financial issues, name changes, and other civil disputes. Although they may specialize in particular areas, JHLs tend to focus most on postconviction complaints or with grievances against prison conditions, prison staff, and prison policy. JHLs provide one of the few possible legitimate challenges by inmates to the conditions of their confinement. Their ability to help others with legal problems gives them influence and status within the prisoner culture, often allowing them to resolve nonlegal ...