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Legal resources for people in prison in District of Columbia

Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

700 14th St. NW

Ste. 400

Washington, D.C. 20005

202-319-1010 (Fax)

202-319-1000 (General information, no collect calls)

202-775-0323 (Prisoner help line, collect calls accepted)

Serves: DC

Focus area/description: The Criminal System Reform program of the Washington Lawyers' Committee advocates for the humane treatment and dignity of all persons convicted or charged - or formerly convicted - with a criminal sentence under District of Columbia law, to assist their family members with prison related issues, and to encourage progressive criminal justice reform.

We serve individuals sentenced out of Washington D.C. who are typically detained in either the D.C. Department of Corrections (DC DOC) or in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Specifically, we work to find free legal representation for individuals serving time on a DC Code violation at their parole grant hearings and with filing for DC compassionate release. We also seek to create systemic change within the DC DOC and BOP through targeted litigation, policy initiatives, and legislative advocacy.

The program's goals are a) to remedy deficiencies in medical and mental health services; b) to ensure that conditions of confinement are safe and humane; c) to work to prevent acts of violence, sexual assault, and torture in prisons; and d) to work with returning citizens and community advocates to create policy initiatives that reduce incarceration and assist individuals returning from a period of incarceration.

Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs confirmed this listing on August 02, 2023.

These national self-help guides may be useful to people in prison in District of Columbia:

The Jailhouse Lawyers Manual is a free guide to legal rights and procedures designed for people in prison. It contains nine sections designed to help incarcerated people learn about their rights, file lawsuits in both state and federal court, attack their conviction or sentence, and address the conditions of their imprisonment. It also contains information about the rights of incarcerated people related to health, safety, religious freedom, and more. We suggest accessing the online version of the manual and mailing the relevant chapters to your incarcerated loved one.

The Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is a free resource for people in prison who want to file a federal lawsuit addressing poor conditions in prison or abuse by prison staff. This guide will not help challenge convictions or sentences or provide guidance on actions in state courts. It also has 14 appendices that provide sample complaints, legal forms, and guidance on how to reach out to journalists, among other topics. You can download relevant chapters of the handbook and mail them to your incarcerated loved one or request to have a copy mailed to them.

A challenge to our colleagues:

We built the internet's first always-up-to-date list of legal services for incarcerated people. Can you make a similar list for a different kind of resource?

Problem: There are too many outdated resource lists floating around.

Our Solution: Have one resource list that one organization checks each year.

Our Method: Inspired by the Cincinnati Books for Prisoners group, we made a list of every legal services organization on every resource list we could find. Then we send a letter by snail mail to each organization each year asking them to confirm/update their listing. If they respond, we include them on the site for the next 365 days. All the organization needs to do is to sign the form we send them and mail it back in the enclosed envelope. If they don't respond, we keep them on our mailing list and try again next year.

This way, any incarcerated person using the list can be assured that the organization they are writing to recently did exist and was responding to mail. And if an organization fails to respond for some reason (staff turnover, postal problems, the dog ate our letter, etc.) they get another chance next year.

It's a win for everyone. We've built a database for legal services. What list can your organization edit?

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