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Home Free: How a New York State prisoner became a jailhouse lawyer, and changed the system

Derrik Hamilton, an innocent prisoner, educated himself of law in jail and became a jailhouse lawyer who exonerated himself and other innocent prisoners.

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Derrick Hamilton’s legal education began in 1983, when he was seventeen and in the jail for teen-age boys on Rikers Island. He’d been an enthusiastic student as a child—his family called him Suity, because he liked to wear a suit to school. But in high school he’d begun skipping classes and getting into trouble. At fifteen, he was charged with robbery and sentenced to sixty days in jail. The arrests continued, for petty larceny, assault, criminal use of a firearm. Then, in March of 1983, a bread deliveryman was fatally shot near Lafayette Gardens, the public-housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where Hamilton lived, and he was charged with the murder. He insisted that he had not done it, and entered a plea of not guilty. Read more...