Pro Bono News

Access Denied: The Digital Crisis in Prison

Monday, August 06, 2018

Access Denied: The Digital Crisis in Prison

"In 2006, jailhouse lawyer Thomas C. O’Bryant sent a handwritten article to the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review detailing across 40 pages the never-ending obstacles prisoners face in accessing legal materials.

The editors were so impressed they published the piece, and O’Bryant — who taught himself the law while serving a life sentence in Florida — even lectured at Harvard later that year via telephone.

His message was damning:

“…the entire system seems to prevent indigent prisoners from obtaining meaningful review of constitutional violations: undereducated prisoners, prisoners with mental disorders, unreliable memories of trial court proceedings, under-trained and under-educated law clerks, ‘psych inmates’ working as law clerks, law libraries with meager resources, restricted access to these law libraries, law clerks, and jailhouse lawyers—the list goes on.”

Twelve years later, he says it’s even worse now.

“Unfortunately, I believe the problems have gotten worse,” O’Bryant wrote to The Crime Report in an interview conducted by snail mail.

One big reason is Florida’s prison system — and a majority of state prisons systems — have dumped print materials for computer kiosks with subscriptions to legal databases..."

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