BEYOND BARS: Re: Law as a Pathway to Character Development

By William A. Larson
Licking, MO

Mr. Phoenix’s commentary articulations in “Law as a Pathway to Character Development,” on page 19 of your Summer/Fall 2017 issue of Guild Notes, is “right on” point, as we used to say in days gone by.

Far too many prisoners allow themselves to be turned into Quisling Sheople, by the prison authorities. It used to be called Stockholm’s Syndrome, in the days of Patty Hearst, when one becomes one with their captors.

I started my self-education, in the early ‘80s, when I started going to the library at MSP. Just reading the case law opened my eyes and mind, causing me to ideate about matters that I had never dreamed of. Without the stabilizing effect of doing legal research, I have no doubt my mind would have turned to correctional mush, and I would be following staff around like a salivating lap dog.

In the late ‘90s, they converted our physical publications to computer, which then forced me to become computer-literate, to my best ability. These computers of today were just a sci-fi fantasy when I was incarcerated in 1981.

The downside of this was that millions of dollars of legal publications, that had been paid for out of our canteen funds just simply disappeared into correctional oblivion. There are times when I am doing research, especially into older case law, when I wish we still had access to the West Publications.

The new computer system allows the MDOC and the Attorney General to monitor what we are individually researching and severely limits our access to information that they do not want us to have access to. All of the computers that are hooked up to the MDOC’s server, in Jefferson City.

Prisoners who want, or need, to fight their cases or secure their personal or constitutional rights without doing legal research first are like someone going into battle with an unloaded gun, and just as ineffective. ■