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Colorado DOC Attacks Jailhouse Lawyers

In March 1998, PLN reported on the case of Tebbetts v. Whitson, 956 P.2d 639 (Colo.App. 1997), where a Colorado prisoner was convicted of attempted bartering as a jailhouse lawyer and possessing another prisoner's legal papers.

The Court of Appeals held the attempted bartering charge could not stand since just receiving letters from other prisoners with offers to pay for legal work, without more, did not meet the elements of the disciplinary charge. Tebbetts could not be convicted of possessing another prisoner's legal papers since the Code of Penal Discipline (COPD) stated that "no conduct shall constitute an offense unless provision for it is made in the code." No such provision was in existence at that time.

To counter the growing trend of prisoners successfully helping other prisoners with litigation, and thus possessing their legal documents, the CDOC amended the COPD effective September 1, 1999, to add a new charge specifically outlawing possession of another prisoner's legal work without the other prisoner being present. Direct sanctions are up to 60 days loss of privileges, up to 20 days punitive segregation, and up to 30 days loss of good time. Indirect sanctions include earned time ineligibility for two months, loss of all grandfathered property, increase in classification points and security rating, and often job termination.

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