We’re excited to announce that today, A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual (JLM) is launching our annual T-shirt and sweatshirt fundraiser to help make the JLM free for the people who need it most, because no person who is incarcerated should be denied legal information just because they can’t pay.
100% of the funds raised through sales will go towards providing free copies of the manual to indigent individuals.
We need your support and help spreading the word—please forward to your networks, post on social media, and buy T-shirts and sweatshirts for yourself and your friends! Please read below for more information about our manual and why we urgently need your support.
What is the JLM?
First published in 1978, A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual is a practical legal resource that provides incarcerated people with the information they need to exercise their rights across a wide range of issue areas. The JLM has more than 40 chapters on topics ranging from challenging unlawful convictions to securing adequate medical care while in prison. The most recent edition of the JLM, the Twelfth Edition, was published this past fall of 2020. In addition to the main JLM, we publish state supplements for people incarcerated in Texas and Louisiana, as well as an Immigration and Consular Access Supplement.
In 1992, Justice Thurgood Marshall honored the JLM with a foreword to the manual. As Justice Marshall explained:
“[B]y making difficult and sensitive legal issues accessible to the lay person, the manual helps to empower prisoners to exercise a right we, as a society, hold dear—the right to speak for oneself. I commend Columbia’s law students for publishing so comprehensive and insightful a manual. A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual should be read by everyone involved in, or concerned about, prisoners’ rights.”
Why Support the JLM?
Your support will help us achieve our bold vision for the future of the JLM: providing free copies of our manual to incarcerated people across the United States. For its over 40 year history, copies of the JLM have been provided to incarcerated people at a significant discount. In recent years, the JLM has worked diligently to reduce costs, but we believe more must be done in order to make this important legal resource as widely available as possible.
As this past year’s protests against police killings of Black people reminded us, we have a long way to go towards achieving racial justice in the United States. Underlying and exacerbating police violence against Black people is a system of mass incarceration in which Black people are largely overrepresented and routinely punished more severely than white people for the same crimes. Within prisons, Black people are more likely than white people to be subjected to abuse and inhumane treatment, violative of their human and constitutional rights. In short, incarceration is a racial justice issue. Ensuring that all incarcerated people have free access to information to vindicate their rights is critically important.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis makes this project even more urgent. Incarcerated people are among those most vulnerable to infection and serious illness from COVID-19. Over the course of the pandemic, incarcerated people have been infected at a rate more than five times higher than the U.S. at large. Lagging vaccine efforts, aging populations, and overcrowding continue to threaten the lives of the almost two million people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country.
In this context, the importance of ensuring people in prison have a meaningful opportunity to assert their rights—particularly with respect to adequate medical care and safe and hygienic living conditions—cannot be overstated.
Incarceration in the United States punishes people of color, especially Black people, poor people, and queer and trans people. It is a moral imperative that, at a minimum, incarcerated people have access to information about their legal rights regardless of their ability to pay. Please help us achieve this vision.
A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual
Columbia Human Rights Law Review