Resources: PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books

PARC corresponds with and mails a directory of these resources to prisoners, their friends and family members. We are often the first point of contact for people to connect with prisoners' rights organizations, community organizations, prison literature and arts projects, family and visiting resources, health care and legal resources, parole and pre-release resources, and the prison abolition movement.

Download a PDF copy of the 2023 edition linked here.

Resource Category
Battling the Administration: An Inmate’s Guide to a Successful Lawsuit

Battling the Administration (David J. Meister, April 2014, 566 pages, $24.95 + $5 S&H) is a self-help manual that guides readers through the complex U.S. civil court system, teaches them how to pursue a lawsuit in the face of the constraints imposed by incarceration, and enables a successful outcome for the prisoner's civil rights lawsuit. The book includes extensive case-law citations and advice on organizing, investigating and prosecuting a case. Know your civil rights and how to defend them in court. Has not been updated since 2014, so research what the lower courts have said about the Supreme Court precedents listed; the advice on preparation and writing skills are still very relevant for any prison-based litigator.

PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books
Columbia Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual

A Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual (12th Ed, 2020, 1520 pages, $30) is a handbook of legal rights and procedures designed to inform prisoners of their rights and how use to judicial process to secure these rights on both the federal and state level, with an emphasis on New York State law. It also has published the following supplements: 1) on Louisiana state law; 2) on Texas state law; and 3) on Immigration and consular access, containing information about the immigration law consequences of criminal convictions for people who are not U.S. Citizens. Individual chapters are also available for download.

This is a student-run, volunteer organization; they cannot provide legal advice or respond to individual inquiries. Expect delays in delivery.

For incarcerated persons, the 12th Edition of the main JLM is $30; supplements range from $15-25 by state. Make checks payable to "Columbia Jailhouse Lawyers' Manual." For non-prisoners, the main JLM is $140 and supplements range from $50-100. 


PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books
Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook - 6th Ed., 2021

The Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook: How to Bring a Federal Lawsuit to Challenge Violations of Your Rights in Prison

Published jointly by the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains how a prisoner can start a lawsuit in federal court to fight against mistreatment and bad conditions in prison. This handbook is a free resource for people in prison who wish to file a federal lawsuit addressing poor conditions in prison or abuse by prison staff. It also contains limited general information about the United States legal system. Has excellent explanation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Essential resource for any jailhouse lawyer.  Last updated in 2021.  To receive a paperbound copy, mail a request to the above address and wait at least 2 months for return.  Requests are bundled and sent only several times per year.  If no response after 3 months, write to the National NLG Prison Law Project for a copy: P.O. Box 1266; New York, NY, 10009.

The Handbook is also available downloaded from their website ( Request an outside source to print and mail it to you. List of chapter headings: (1) How to Use the JLH; (2) Overview of Types of Lawsuits and the Prison Litigation Reform Act' 3) Your Rights in Prison; (4) Who to Sue and What to Ask for; (5) How to Start Your Lawsuit; (6) What Happens After You File Your Suit; (7) The Legal System and Legal Research; and Appendices A-N.

PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books
The California Prison and Parole Law Handbook

The California Prison and Parole Law Handbook (Heather MacKay & Prison Law Office, 5th Ed, 2019, 1170 pages) is newly updated in 2019! It is a comprehensive overview of the laws and policies affecting people in state prisons and on parole in California. Includes extensive discussion of the administrative appeals and court actions that people can use to protect their rights and to seek remedies. 19 chapters, plus resource lists, forms, and sample legal documents. It is available for download for free online at Paper copies for people in custody are $20 and $200 for all others. Prices include tax, shipping and handling. The Prison Law Office has a monthly drawing for free copies of The Handbook for people in custody. To be put in the pool, a person should send a copy of their trust account statement showing that they have not had more than $25 in their account in the past six months to Prison Law Office at above address.

Chapters include: Administrative Appeals; Rights of People in Prison; Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Use of Excessive Force, and Protection from Physical and Sexual Abuse; Classification, Housing and Programs; Prison Rule Violations; Placement in Segregation; Medical, Mental Health, and Dental Care; Determinate Sentences, Restitution, Time Credits, and Release Dates; Life Parole Suitability, Other Board of Parole Hearings Proceedings, Commutations, and Pardons; Detainers and Extradition; Parole and Post-Release Community Supervision; MDO and SVP Commitments; Workers Compensation and Other Benefits; Immigration Issues for People in Prison; Direct Appeals of Criminal Convictions; State Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Writ of Mandate/Prohibition; Federal Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus; Federal Civil Rights (“Section 1983”) Lawsuits; State Tort Lawsuits; and Legal Research, Writing, and Strategies.


PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books
Your Life on the List

"Your Life on the List," by Derek Logue, is a state by state by state survival guide for those forced to register upon release from incarceration. The latest edition is available via Amazon for $14.95.  It can also be downloaded (free of charge) by going to where there is a vast amount of information for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, including housing lists, information on legal issues, and newsletters.

PARC Recommended Legal and Educational Prison Books