The Activist Files

The Activist Files is a podcast by the Center for Constitutional Rights where we feature the stories of people on the front lines fighting for justice, including activists, lawyers, and artists. We interview movement partners, our clients, and people using storytelling to create change, and look to highlight lesser known aspects of the work. Listen to our latest episode here, or subscribe through your iPhone podcast app, or directly on iTunes or Spotify!

August 25, 2021

As its on-going celebration of the updated sixth edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook, Center for Constitutional Rights Co-author and Senior Legal Worker Ian Head speaks with a number of people who have influenced and been influenced by the handbook for the 41st episode: “Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook: Exploring the legacy of inside-outside organizing.” 

Ian spoke with:

  • Brian Glick, a lawyer, Fordham Law School professor, writer and activist, and original author of the handbook;
  • Jenipher Jones Bonio, lead counsel, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak International Law Project and program manager for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Initiatives at Sturm College of Law;
  • Lisa Drapkin, director of membership for the National Lawyers Guild, which helps with the distribution of the handbook; and
  • Chinyere Ezie, senior staff attorney and co-author of the updated edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook.
  • Ian wraps up the episode by playing a recording by Mumia Abu Jamal, political activist, journalist and jailhouse lawyer.

In this episode, Ian goes back to 1973 with Brian, when the first Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook which was published as a manual to demystify the complexities of the law for non-lawyers. Brian provides the history of how the manual came to be. Jenipher discusses the mission of the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a group of anonymous incarcerated activists working to abolish prisons and their current advocacy action, the Shut’em Down demonstrations. Lisa talks about the impact—the number of requests for the handbook and how people on the inside use the handbook. And Chinyere highlights what's new in the handbook regarding LGBTQIA+ law, including new case law about transgender healthcare, visitation, and equal protection, and an appendix that provides state-by-state policies.

Ian closes with a powerful recording by Mumia, who lifts up some of the self-taught litigators who have successfully used the handbook.

Hard copies of the sixth edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook are being distributed widely to prisoners and prisoners’ rights groups. The accompanying Jailhouse Lawyer’s website makes a searchable version available to family and friends of prisoners that allows users to browse the lengthy resource and quickly identify the most pertinent information. 

Resources:

Podcast Transcript PDF