Jailhouse Lawyers

Jailhouse Lawyers
Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.
Foreword by Angela Y. Davis

Press Reviews

The Black House Blog

"Journalist, activist, and author Abu-Jamal writes a startling expose' on otherwise shrouded subject matter, thusly inaugurating this book unto an exemplary class by itself. Indeed, the power of his truth upholds the long-neglected promise of transformation awaiting the domains of justice."
—Mischa Geracoulis

Z Magazine

"To borrow from an old African-American proverb, Mumia Abu-Jamal 'speaks truth to power' in his latest book on jailhouse lawyering, the American legal system, and the prison-industrial complex. . . . Abu-Jamal writes with incisive equanimity while presenting penetratingly disturbing facts, little known in mainstream society."—Mischa Geracoulis

The Federal Lawyer

"From his unique vantage point (he has been incarcerated for more than a quarter of a century, most of that on death row), Abu-Jamal aptly humanizes the individuals toiling behind bars to bring cases against enormous institutional, societal, and legal obstacles. . . . [The book] testifies to the character of many jailhouse lawyers, who, when treated with disdain or worse, quietly persist in reading, analyzing, writing, and fighting to do what is right — doing justice."
—Heidi Boghosian

Poor Magazine

"Mumia chronicles numerous stories surrounding the experiences of those who faced incarceration, but narrowly escaped with the power of the pen, and the tongue of one (or more) like-minded individuals possessing self-invented legal minds. Like-minded individuals who were immensely unafraid, to divinely deter the injustices they faced in prison. . . Mumia deconstructs the entire corruptive constructs rooted in the contradictive, confusing force that is historically known as American Law. Its callous vulture-culture continues to clash its claws upon the working poor, and the poor in general." —Marlon Crump


"More than a book about prisoners defending prisoners in what the author justly calls 'the Prisonhouse of Nations,' Mumia Abu-Jamal's Jailhouse Lawyers has the potential to jump-start the prison reform movement in the US. In addition to telling the individual stories of the best (and worst) jailhouse lawyers defending themselves and their fellow prisoners in the face of official hostility and, in many instances personal danger, and presenting a lively history of jailhouse lawyering in modern America, Abu-Jamal clearly exposes the political and racial bias of the US criminal justice system and explores the role of jailhouse lawyers in the jungle of American law."

—Richard Vogel

The Indypendent
"Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection April 6 of Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial, he continues to fight for his freedom. This would not have been possible without the support of millions worldwide. He reminds the reader of the more than two million Americans behind bars in similar situations to himself, and that those in the free world have a responsibility to those trapped 'in the bowels of the slave ship, in the hidden dank dungeons of America.'" —Jaisal Noor

Drums in the Global Village
"Mumia Abu-Jamal points out in his latest book, his sixth from Death Row in Pennsylvania, that unfortunately jailhouse lawyers—prisoners who learn the law in the joint and help other prisoners with appeals and legal problems—have a reputation of freeing others while they squat. 'It's the bane of jailhouse lawyers. They seem to be able to help everybody but themselves.' That truth hit home earlier this month when the U.S. Supreme Court refused, without comment, to hear the former Black Panther’s appeal for a new trial based on the prosecution’s consistent exclusion of blacks from his 1982 jury pool. He turns 55 Friday, which means he has officially spent more than half his life in jail. Unless further appeals work, a new Philadelphia jury will eventually be composed, and it will give him life imprisonment or re-institute his death sentence for the 1981 murder of Daniel Faulkner, a white Philadelphia police officer. Then the state of Pennsylvania will try to kill him again." —Todd S. Burroughs

Crime Magazine

"Mumia Abu-Jamal's 27 years on Death Row for a murder he did not commit would have turned almost anyone else into an embittered, defeated man. Instead, he has remained what he always was, "the voice of the voiceless," as he demonstrates yet again in his most recent book . . . Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. opens a tightly shut door into the operations of the U.S. penal system by chronicling the exploits of dozens of jailhouse lawyers – both men and women – who have fought the injustices the courts and the prisons have dealt them and their fellow prisoners. Their accomplishments, against all odds, have been incredible. Their story is a story never before told."

—J. Patrick O'Connor

OpEd News
"Because the justice system in the United States has become so politicized around 'law and order' and has erected an entire industry to house those convicted, the United States – which represents 5 percent of the world's population – now incarcerates 25 percent of the world's prison population. That would go a long way in explaining why there are tens of thousands of jailhouse lawyers working pro se for themselves and other inmates and why Abu-Jamal's latest book is such an important one." —J. Patrick O'Connor


"The first of its kind, Mumia has written a book that is, paradoxically, both revolutionary and conservative. It's revolutionary because it breaks new ground enlightening us about the courageous, unorthodox resistance to the system (and its inherent injustices) posed by jailhouse lawyers. It's conservative because, as Mumia points out, '…jailhouse lawyers often unwittingly serve the interests of the state by propagating the illusion of 'justice’ and 'equity’ in a system devoted to neither.'  They create 'illusions of legal options as pathways to both individual and collective liberation'. . . . I recommend this book to all who are interested in justice and its denial, prisoners and their loved ones, courage and consciousness, equality and freedom."

—Kiilu Nyasha

Kirkus Reviews

"Convicted for the 1981 murder of a police officer, Abu-Jamal . . . offers a hodgepodge of stories about imprisoned men and women who have picked up enough law to represent themselves and others, fight for prisoners' rights and challenge prison conditions. These advocates learned the law 'not in the ivory towers of multi-billion-dollar-endowed universities,' he writes, but 'in the bowels of the slave-ship, in the hidden, dank dungeons of America—the Prisonhouse of Nations' . . . . Drawing on correspondence with two-dozen jailhouse lawyers around the country, Abu-Jamal discusses the lives and work of men and women—some educated, others barely able to read and write—who do legal research, file grievances and litigate cases, often earning reputations as troublemakers and dealt with accordingly by prison authorities. Thousands of such lawyers now work among the 2.3 million inmates of America’s prison system, 'to help, to uplift, and even to free others'. . . . Abu-Jamal details the legal strictures governing jailhouse law, including the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits by prisoners. Far from being frivolous, he argues, many such actions have led to significant prison reforms."