Legal Research Associates


~ Providing Corrections Agencies with Programs that Support Inmate Access to the Courts ~


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About LRA...


               HOW IT GOT STARTED...

     When the U.S. Supreme Court first declared in 1943 that all inmates have a constitutional right of access to the courts, no one could say exactly what this right encompassed or what preserving it would cost.  However, whatever else this right entails, the ability of inmates to do meaningful legal research is an essential component of Constitutionally required "inmate access to courts."

               WHAT HAPPENED NEXT...

     After 50 plus years of litigation and lawmaking, “court access” means very different things for different kinds of inmates, and new laws and cases change the rules from day to day. About the only thing agreed on is that this right is not going away anytime soon.


     As long as inmate access to the courts is recognized as a right, agencies must either establish programs to support this right or allow the courts to impose access programs on them.

               THE IN-HOUSE OPTION...

     Agencies choosing to develop in-house access programs must constantly adapt procedures and provide new resources to meet the shifting standards for each type of inmate in custody. This typically involves establishing and maintaining a law library of bound volumes and related support equipment such as copiers and typewriters; or a number of computer access terminals with either local or network electronic library subscriptions. Both of these require the additional commitment and costs of personnel needed to escort inmates to and from the law library and secure them while they are there; and the additional expense of replacing books and/or equipment damaged by inmates. Even full compliance does not always insulate these agencies from inmate grievances, legal challenges and court orders. Responses to these procedures result in even greater expenditures of time and money.

               THE JUDICIAL OPTION...

     Agencies without a program for inmate legal research are open to sanctions including fines and court-imposed law library requirements.


               COURTING DISASTER...

      Many court-imposed inmate access programs do not offer clear means to review, amend or replace programs as changes in the law, inmate population, or agency resources occur.  This can lead to agencies working under multiple, sometimes contradictory, court orders.

     While Congress has recently limited the power of federal courts to preemptively impose inmate access programs, many agencies are already struggling under court-imposed programs ordered up to thirty years ago and never released.



     Fortunately, there is a way out of this "no-win" situation...  LRA.



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