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Bound by Law, Freed by Solidarity: Navigating CA Prisons and Universities as a Jailhouse Lawyer

The UCLA Law Review is published six times a year by the students of the UCLA School of Law and the Regents of the University of California. Recently, UCLA Law Review published, "Bound by Law, Freed by Solidarity: Navigating California Prisons and Universities as a Jailhouse Lawyer" written by Michael Saavedra, a formerly incarcerated student who discusses the way he managed to learn the law, and represent himself while being behind bars.

Michael is currently an undergraduate student at UCLA, majoring in American Indian Studies with a minor in Chicano and Central American Studies. He was released from prison on February 22, 2017, after being incarcerated for over nineteen years—fifteen of which he spent in solitary confinement. Between 2011 and 2013, Michael helped organize, lead, and participated in three separate California prisoner hunger strikes aimed at calling attention to solitary confinement. He also educated himself while in solitary confinement, and was able to learn and utilize the law to successfully, sue the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation several times, as well as assist and teach others to do the same.

In his article, Michael discusses how:

"For jailhouse lawyers, winning a lawsuit seems like a victory, but there are multiple barriers to practicing law post-incarceration. Building on personal experiences, this Essay focuses on the deterrents to legal education in prison and post-incarceration for jailhouse lawyers. Through an examination of structural obstacles that keep formerly incarcerated people out of the legal profession, this Essay concludes by describing steps being taken to increase accessibility and support in the legal field."

As a pre-law student who also self-identifies as formerly incarcerated, having read Michael's article has truly gave me a new perspective regarding the importance of incarcerated individuals being able to access materials that will allow them to educate themselves about the law. Being able to have that opportunity allows the individual to have a fair chance of being able to represent themselves in a court of law.

Head over to to read the full article! Michael is truly an inspiration, and has so much to offer not only the UCLA community, but his own community as well.

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