A Day in the Life of a Jailhouse Lawyer

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My celly Justin, “Captain Crunchy,” as we called him, was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections on December 8 at 1 a.m. He caught an Amtrak train to Chicago. From there he jumped on the bus for his final leg of his journey. As I draft this blog, I hope my old celly has arrived to see his little girl. For she is the reason I helped him get home on time.

On July 19, 2017, my previous celly, Santiago, was transferred back to Chicago to go to court on outstanding charges. I had helped Santiago draft a plea bargain to present to the judge, pleading guilty to the lesser crime of vehicular burglary. The Man was trying to hook him up with a carjacking charge and body slam him with twenty years. So we pointed out the physical facts and copped out to the lesser charge. The Judge reviewed and then realized our facts were true. The deal was done.

In the Illinois Department of Corrections, the bed does not stay empty for long. Santiago left at 5:30 in the morning. At 11a.m. a skinny little runt was at my door saying, “Hey, wake up man. You are getting a new celly.” So I got up and let him move his stuff into our six-by-nine-foot bathroom with a bunk bed in it. Once he had the bed made and his empty box under the bunk we talked for a few minutes.

Justin was another young man who had been caught up in the fast life of slinging meth and running from the Man. Well, the Man had caught him. He was sent to Iowa to serve his sentence there, then transferred to Illinois to finish his sentence running concurrently. As we talked and got to know each other, he told me about his young daughter, how he had screwed up that relationship. He felt bad about never being there for her. He wanted to change, to get his act together and be there for her.

Now Justin never knew what he did when he told me about his daughter, but he hit my weakness. For I lost my time with my own daughter when she was young. So I decided to help the guy make his release date. Captain Crunchy had several warrants outstanding, which means the Man was sitting in wait for him to serve more time. Once released from his current sentence, the Man would send one of his minions to collect Justin and transport him back to the county jail to face the unresolved charges. Then he would stack the sentences running wild, to serve one after the completion of the other.

But we have a simply wonderful Constitution in America. Our forefathers were outlaws. So they created a system where they could be heard. Under our Sixth Amendment you have the right to a fast and speedy trial. When incarcerated you have a 160-day window for the Man to come get you and proceed to trial, or waive the charge—Nolle Prosequi—to end it.

Nolle Prosequi: (Latin) The ending of a criminal case because the prosecutor decides or agrees to stop prosecuting the case.

So I drafted some motions for a fast and speedy trial in order to get the ball on the field, for without it the State will lie in wait. They pick you up at the door, and then stack your next case. In each charge the State waived the case. Then I gave him instructions to share with his Mom.

Justin had an outstanding bill in court cost and fines. With the money being funny in Illinois, the County would not let this slide. So his Mom set up a payment plan. She dropped one hundred in the till, the first payment to get the warrant for contempt of court dropped. For a body warrant had been issued by JoDaviess County when he failed to pay the court cost. So we filed the papers, and we got Mom involved with contact to the right circuit clerk.

In the five months Captain Crunchy was my celly we talked about his life in the meth world. Being on the run, and because of his destructive nature, he was his own worst enemy. All through those talks the pain he had caused his daughter was in his voice. For he accepted and took responsibility for being a goof and doing the things he had done. Justin wanted to go to Texas to set up a clean life for himself and his daughter.

So I decided to help him get home to be a father to his young daughter who wrote him a letter. When it arrived he was on a high for three days. The letter from her had him walking three feet off the earth. So I drafted the motions to get the charges finished. I helped his Mom and him get the out-of-State transfer of his mandatory supervised release. I explained the rules and law to him and he passed it on to Mom. She went to bat for him.

I did the legal work for free. I did not charge him; it was for that little girl that I sent him home. For I know the damage done to my little girl when I was gone. I was not there to protect her. So maybe I can pay it forward and Justin will become a success story.

Together with Mom we got the warrants dismissed and the charges adjudicated. So now it is on him to start a new life

The guys in the big house have a saying; “It ain’t no fun when the rabbit has the gun.” Knowledge is the key. When you know how to draft the legal papers that get things moving and heard in the criminal court, the State cannot stack the cases. They cannot lie in wait for your outdate and then crush your dreams of going home with a pending charge.

The basic rule of life requires that we help those less fortunate than ourselves. It is bogus to take advantage of those in a lesser stance in life. I cannot profit from their pain and suffering. So I build good karma and will be repaid tenfold by the Universe.

So maybe Justin will be another success story. Paying it forward for that little girl who needs her Dad in her life–now that is a righteous cause. Now, Captain Crunchy, be a good dad.

 

Author: Larry Harris

My name is Larry “Rocky” Harris and I am serving a sixty-five year prison term in the state of Illinois for a crime I didn’t commit. After I went to prison, I began to study the law, and now I am what is called a “prison lawyer.” I provide legal advice to inmates who can't afford a lawyer. I am looking forward to telling my story in this blog, and also providing a forum for prisoners everywhere.

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