Current Edition

A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual
12th Edition


A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual is written and updated by members of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. The law prohibits us from providing any legal advice to prisoners. The information is not intended as legal advice or representation nor should you consider it as such. Additionally, your use of the JLM should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship with the JLM staff or anyone at Columbia Law School. We have attempted to provide information that is up to date and useful. However, because the law changes frequently, we cannot guarantee that this information is current or correct.

If you are printing chapters of the JLM for use by someone other than yourself, please include the title page and legal disclaimer, which can be accessed in PDF form by clicking on the blue, “Title Page & Legal Disclaimer” link below.

To view PDFs of the 12th Edition of the JLM, please click on the chapter titles in the Table of Contents below.

Title Page & Legal Disclaimer


Foreword by Justice Thurgood Marshall


Table of Contents

Section I: Introduction to the JLM and How to Use It

Chapter 1: How to Use the JLM

Section II: Learning Your Rights

Chapter 2: Introduction to Legal Research

Chapter 3: Your Right to Learn the Law and Go to Court

Section III: How to File a Lawsuit and Learn About Your Case

Chapter 4: How to Find a Lawyer

Chapter 5: Choosing a Court and a Lawsuit

Chapter 6: An Introduction to Legal Documents

Chapter 7: Freedom of Information

Chapter 8: Obtaining Information to Prepare Your Case: The Process of Discovery

Section IV: How to Attack Your Conviction or Sentence

Chapter 9: Appealing Your Conviction or Sentence

Chapter 10: Applying for Re-Sentencing for Drug Offenses

Chapter 11: Using Post-Conviction DNA testing to Attack Your Conviction or Sentence

Chapter 12: Appealing Your Conviction Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Chapter 13: Federal Habeas Corpus

Section V: How to Attack the Conditions of Your Imprisonment

Chapter 14: The Prison Litigation Reform Act

Chapter 15: Inmate Grievance Procedures

Chapter 16: Using 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to Obtain Relief from Violations of Federal Law

Chapter 17: The State’s Duty to Protect You and Your Property: Tort Actions

Chapter 18: Your Rights At Prison Disciplinary Proceedings

Chapter 19: Your Right to Communicate with the Outside World

Section VI: How to Attack Your Conviction, Sentence, or Prison Conditions at the State Level

Chapter 20: Using Article 440 if the New York Criminal Procedure Law to Attack Your Unfair Conviction or Illegal Sentence

Chapter 21: State Habeas Corpus: Florida, New York, and Michigan

Chapter 22: How to Challenge Administrative Decisions Using Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules

Section VII: General Health and Safety Rights in Prison

Chapter 23: Your Right to Adequate Medical Care

Chapter 24: Your Right to be Free from Assault by Prison Guards and Other Incarcerated People

Chapter 25: Your Right to be Free from Illegal Body Searches

Chapter 26: Infectious Diseases: AIDS, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and MRSA in Prison

Section VIII: Issue-Specific Rights

Chapter 27: Religious Freedom in Prison

Chapter 28: Rights of Incarcerated People with Disabilities

Chapter 29: Special Issues for Incarcerated People with Mental Illness

Chapter 30: Special Information for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer Incarcerated People

Chapter 31: Security Classification and Gang Validation

Chapter 32: Parole

Chapter 33: Rights of Incarcerated Parents

Chapter 34: The Rights of Pretrial Detainees

Chapter 35: Getting Out Early: Conditional and Early Release

Chapter 36: Special Considerations for Sex Offenders

Chapter 37: Rights Upon Release

Chapter 38: Rights of Youth in Prison

Chapter 39: Temporary Release Programs

Chapter 40: Plea Bargaining

Chapter 41: Special Issues of Incarcerated Women

Section IX: Appendices

Appendix I: Addresses of Federal Courts & New York State Prisons and Their Respective Federal Judicial Districts

Appendix II: New York State: Filing Instructions & Addresses of New York State Courts

Appendix III: Addresses of New York District Attorneys

Appendix IV: Directory of Legal and Social Services for Incarcerated People

Appendix V: Definitions of Words Used in the JLM

Appendix VI: Definitions of Latin Words Used in the JLM