Self-Help Legal Guides, Publisher, Rosemary Steele; 104 pages, Softbound
Reviewed by David M. Reutter
Every prisoner has a legal problem. Solving that problem is very difficult, especially if the prisoner is in confinement. With the goal of creating a vehicle to assist prisoners in Florida’s confinement and close management units solve their problems, prisoner law clerk William Steele started creating legal guides. Out of that effort has arisen a compilation of federal and Florida case law that prisoners can easily store at hand.
Self-Help Legal Guides are divided into seven sections: 1) Nuts & Bolts for Post Conviction Relief; 2) Criteria for Challenging Appellate Counsel Representation; 3) Criteria for Belated Appeal; 4) Criteria for Withdrawing a Plea; 5) Criteria for Filing a Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence; 6) Criteria for Filing a Newly Discovered Evidence Claim; and 7) DR Checklist for a Successful Appeal.
When I first entered prison, I was overwhelmed when gazing upon all the books in the law library. Where does one start? In confinement, if you don’t know the exact case, key number, or issue you want information on, you are in serious trouble. Self-Help Legal Guides provides prisoners the information they need without seeking law clerk assistance.
Moreover, it provides them all the information they need to start upon the road to challenging their conviction and criminal court or the prison’s disciplinary “kangaroo” court.
It’s often said that one can’t find error if one doesn’t know what error it is. Every section of Self-Help Legal Guides does an excellent job of explaining the rules and procedures of its respective area of law. The Guides’ simple language expounds upon and simply interprets the difficult procedural quagmire that most prisoners trip on to their detriment.
Matters of procedure, common mistakes, and murky areas are explained and supported by case citations. The Guides do just what its author set out to do: Arm Florida Prisoners with the information they need to file a cognizable claim to beat their criminal conviction or disciplinary report.
Two of the most beneficial aspects of Self-Help Legal Guides are its thorough, though not exhaustive, listing of issues to raise on the respective writs and its factual examples of claims. Sample writs and memorandum of laws are provided for the use of prisoners. Woefully lacking in the law books in Florida’s prison libraries are such samples. The Guides fill this void. Its over 2,200 cited cases will be beneficial to any prisoner.
The Guides’ 8 x 11” pages are in a softbound book with a clear plastic cover. Hence it is easily stored in the cramped locker space provided for prisoners, but durable enough to handle the shuffling and packing prisoners do from moving regularly.
Self-Help Legal Guides is available by sending a check or money order for $65 to: Self-Help Legal Guides, P.O. Box 64, Windermere, FL 34786. For Florida prisoners that want to do their own legal work rather than play the jailhouse lawyer lottery, Self-Help Legal Guides belongs in your library.
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