In Jailhouse Lawyers, award-winning journalist and death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal presents the stories and reflections of fellow prisoners-turned-advocates who have learned to use the court system to represent other prisoners—many uneducated or illiterate—and in some cases, to win their freedom.
In Mumia's words, "This is the story of law learned, not in the ivory towers of multi-billion-dollar endowed universities [but] in the bowels of the slave-ship, in the hidden, dank dungeons of America … It is law learned in a stew of bitterness, under the constant threat of violence, in places where millions of people live, but millions of others wish to ignore or forget. It is law written with stubs of pencils, or with four-inch-long rubberized flex-pens, with grit, glimmerings of brilliance, and with clear knowledge that retaliation is right outside the cell door. It is a different perspective on the law, written from the bottom, with a faint hope that a right may be wronged, an injustice redressed. It is Hard Law."
Mumia Abu-Jamal is author of many books, including Live From Death Row, Death Blossoms, All Things Censored, and We Want Freedom. He has been living on death row in a Pennsylvania prison since 1982.
Listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal's latest dispatches from death row on Prison Radio.
Praise for Jailhouse Lawyers:
"Jailhouse Lawyers is a must-read for everyone connected in any fashion to the criminal justice system. It illuminates a dark area seen by few and outlines the legal battles still waged from the 'hole' by the semantic warriors who inhabit it. The book plumbs the depth of man's inhumanity to man by exploring the ongoing legal attack by underground lawyers on an unfair legal system. Death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award winning journalist, once again demonstrates his courage in opposing the oppression of prison existence."
"[Mumia Abu-Jamal] is one of the most important public intellectuals of our time…. Jailhouse Lawyers is a persuasive refutation of the ideological underpinnings of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The way he situates the PLRA historically—as an inheritance of the Black Codes, which were themselves descended from the slave codes—allows us to recognize the extent to which historical memories of slavery and racism are inscribed in the very structures of the prison system and have helped to produce the prison-industrial-complex. Mumia Abu-Jamal has once more enlightened us, he has once more offered us new ways of thinking about law, democracy, and power. He allows us to reflect upon the fact that transformational possibilities often emerge where we least expect them."
—Angela Y. Davis, from the foreword
Praise for Mumia Abu-Jamal:
"A rare and courageous voice speaking from a place we fear to know: Mumia Abu-Jamal must be heard."
"The power of his voice is rooted in his defiance of those determined to silence him. Magically, Mumia's words are clarified, purified by the toxic strata of resistance they must penetrate to reach us. Like the blues. Like jazz."
—John Edgar Wideman
"Brilliant in its specificity and imperative, Mumia Abu-Jamal's work is about why multitudes of people don't overcome. It rings so true because he has not overcome."
"Expert and well-reasoned commentary on the justice system...His writings are dangerous."
—The Village Voice
"Crucial reading for all opponents of the death penalty—and for those who support it, too."
—Katha Pollitt, The Nation
"Uncompromising, disturbing...Abu-Jamal's voice has the clarity and candor of a man whose impending death emboldens him to say what is on his mind without fear of consequence."
—The Boston Globe
"Abu-Jamal's words flow like the sap of trees, pulsing with energy and capturing the essence of life."
"The voice of black journalism in the struggle for the liberation of African American people has always proved to be decisive throughout black history. From David Walker's appeal in 1829, to the political journalism of Frederick Douglass, to the Black Panther newspaper. When you listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal you hear the echoes of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and the sisters and brothers who kept the faith with struggle, who kept the faith with resistance."
"Like the most powerful critics in our society—Herman Melville . . . to Eugene O'Neil—Mumia Abu-Jamal forces us to grapple with the most fundamental question facing this country: what does it profit a nation to conquer the whole world and lose its soul?"
"Mumia refuses to allow his spirit to be broken by the forces of injustice; his language glows with an affirming flame."
"Mumia is a dramatic example of how the criminal justice system can be brought to bear on someone who is African American, articulate, and involved in change in society. The system is threatened by someone like Mumia. A voice as strong and as truthful as his—the repression against him is intensified."
—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking