Friday, 3 June 2011

Book Launch: Jailhouse Lawyers by Mumia Abu-Jamal

From death row in Pennsylvania, launch of a new book in the UK...

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Foreword by Angela Y. Davis,
Introduction by Selma James
Published by Crossroads Books
Price: £11.99
Free to Prisoners. Donations welcome to help cover costs.

Book Launch:
30 June 2011, 4-5pm
House of Lords, Committee Room 4
Hosted by Lord Ramsbotham (Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)
- Selma James, Crossroads Books editor, Introduction to Jailhouse Lawyers
· John Hirst, Ex-prisoner, won European Court decision for prisoners’ right to vote.
· Flo Krause, Barrister who represented John Hirst in the European Court
· Ian Macdonald, QC Wrote letter to US court on racism in Abu-Jamal’s trial, signed by over 100 UK lawyers
· Emmanuel De Silva, Jailhouse lawyer
· Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet, ex-prisoner
· Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women

From death row, award-winning journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal introduces us to fellow prisoners who litigate against their jailers, risking punishment or even death, to win justice for themselves and other prisoners.
“This is the story,” he writes, “of law learned not in the ivory towers of multi-billion-dollar endowed universities [but] in the hidden, dank dungeons of America – the Prisonhouse of Nations.”
Selma James’s Introduction presents the parallel universe of UK jailhouse lawyers who, like their US counterparts, are leading a justice movement inside prisons.

UK prisoners, denied the vote, are campaigning for this fundamental right. A legal challenge brought by a jailhouse lawyer supported by a dedicated legal team won a European Court ruling in 2004 that a blanket ban on votes for prisoners violates their human rights. Yet the government, in opposing votes for prisoners, acts as if those of us who are prisoners are less human, and deny that prisons and what goes on in them also frame the kind of society we all inhabit.

The UK publication of Jailhouse Lawyers is an opportunity for prisoners’ campaign for the vote and other efforts for fundamental reforms to be more widely known and supported.


Anger with accuracy. Outstanding. Ian Macdonald QC

Deserves to be read by policymakers. Lord David Ramsbotham, former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Illuminates what is possible for jailhouse lawyers in Britain. Ben Gunn, UK jailhouse lawyer

A champion of law in an institution that is lawless. Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, ex-prisoner

Gallant prisoners who do battle with the authorities. Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve

A brilliant analysis of law and lawyers as instruments of injustice. Lord Anthony Gifford QC, UK barrister and attorney, Jamaica

A must read for prisoners and prison reform groups. John Hirst, former jailhouse lawyer

In the grand tradition of prison writing. Frances Crook, Director, Howard League for Penal Reform

An international learning tool – of particular importance to the Caribbean. Richard Small, attorney, Jamaica

The truth about death row and its distinguished inhabitants. Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women

Make way for inside voices. Everybody should read it. Flo Krause, barrister

Mumia Abu-Jamal has once more offered us new ways of thinking about law, democracy, and power. Angela Y. Davis, from the Foreword

They learn the law, the procedures, the jargon, and mount an often formidable legal defence. In the process they carve out a life for themselves. Selma James, from the Introduction

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