Paul Wright is a success story: Once a killer, then a prisoner, now a journalist with a cause. He has carved out a niche with his Prison Legal News, a self-help magazine.
PLN is a nonprofit tabloid dedicated to protecting the human rights of incarcerated individuals. It uses lawyers, public policy experts, advocates and prison scribes as correspondents.
The publication is stuffed with legal advice, tips on staying healthy behind bars and news about court rulings that involve prison labor, medical treatment in prisons and suicide prevention programs in prisons. Its correspondents have ranged from late civil rights attorney William Kunstler to imprisoned Philadelphia police officer killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Wright, a former U.S. Army military policeman, started the monthly publication in 1990. Back then, he was inmate No. 930783 at Clallam Bay Correctional Center in Clallam Bay, Wash., where he served 16 years of a 25-year term for killing a cocaine dealer he was trying to rob.
In my practice, many defense attorneys chide and ridicule jailhouse lawyers. I hear, ” . . . these defendants are not attorneys trained in the law . . . they have limited access to limited legal resources . . . they don’t know what they’re talking about . . . ”
However, I think differently.
Sure, Mr. Jailhouse Lawyer’s legal analysis may contain flaws. Sure, my clients discuss what Mr. Jailhouse Lawyer told them about their case. Yes, my clients want to compare legal advice between myself and Mr. Jailhouse Lawyer. GREAT! Believe it or not, I enjoy these conversations. I prefer clients who ask me questions. I want clients to be active in their case. It gives me more opportunity to develop a relationship and gain trust.
I congratulate Mr. Wright; and others like him, for the work they do. He is a light in the dark, an advocate, an educator, and a hero to many.