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Prisoner Access to Justice and Paralegals: The Fox Lake Paralegal Program

NCJ Number
111861
Journal
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1988) Pages: 67-90
Author(s)
B Kempinen
Date Published
1988
Annotation
A paralegal program has been facilitating inmates' access to legal services in the medium security prison in Fox Lake, Wis.
Abstract
Inmate paralegals, under the supervision of an attorney, assist inmates with civil and criminal law problems including postconviction matters, obtaining sentence credits, resolving pending charges, and dealing with family law problems. Paralegals conduct interviews with inmates seeking legal assistance, prepare memoranda regarding interviews, investigate facts, prepare affidavits and other documents, conduct legal research, and maintain complete files on current and prospective clients. Classroom and onsite training of paralegals emphasizes the development of communciation, organizational, and substantive legal skills. Attorney control over paralegal work is maintained through biweekly review of all cases and adherence to a carefully structured approach to each case. In its first 3 years, the program has provided legal services to over 150 inmates with virtually no backlog of requests for legal help. Use of paralegals permits greater continuing contact and communciation with clients, and inmates often find advice from peers more credible than from a public defender or other attorney. Inmate satisfaction with the program is high, the costs are relatively low, and the program provides useful vocational training for a limited number of inmate paralegals. 54 footnotes.