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October 2, 2018

"Meet a convicted felon who became a Georgetown law professor"

Images (15)The title of this post is the title of this 60 Minutes segment that started this way:

Jailhouse lawyers are prisoners who manage to learn enough about the law while incarcerated to help themselves and other inmates with legal problems.  We get letters from them every week.  Tonight we are going to reintroduce you to Shon Hopwood, who is arguably the most successful jailhouse lawyer ever, having had one of his cases argued before the U.S. Supreme court while serving a 12-year sentence for armed bank robbery. Since his release he's built up an extraordinary resume as a legal scholar, and has been published in top law journals.  We first met him last fall at one of the nation's premier law schools where he's become its newest professor. A tale of redemption as improbable as any you're likely to hear.

Excitingly, Shon Hopwood will be at Moritz for the next Issue 1 panel at noon in 352 Drinko. In addition, Shon and I will be hanging out in room 455 from about 10:30am until noon for anyone who would like a chance to talk with him about his experiences or his work for criminal justice reform.

A companion piece on the 60 Minutes story available here is titled "Kroft: Prison lawyer is "one of the best characters" in decades of reporting." And this Washington Post piece on Shon is headlined "He robbed banks and went to prison. His time there put him on track for a new job: Georgetown law professor." Here is how it starts:

During a break in a basketball game to raise money for charity, Shon Hopwood told some of his Georgetown law students it felt different than the last time he was on a court: When he played basketball in federal prison, he had to carry a shank in case his team started to lose. His students laughed. He ran back onto the law-school court — and sank the winning shot.

Hopwood’s new job as a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center is only the latest improbable twist in a remarkable life: In the last 20 years, he has robbed banks in small towns in Nebraska, spent 11 years in federal prison, written a legal petition for a fellow inmate so incisive that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, done that again, earned undergraduate and law degrees and extremely competitive clerkships, written a book, married his hometown crush and started a family.

But this could be his most compelling role yet. His time in prison gave him an unusual perspective on the law that allows him to see things other lawyers overlook, and a searing understanding of the impact of sentencing and the dramatic growth in incarceration in the United States.

“It’s one of the big social-justice issues of our time,” he said. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. “Between prison, jail, home confinement, probation, parole, combined it’s about 10 million people. It’s a big number.” And almost three-quarters of released prisoners are back in custody five years later. He hopes to change some of that.

October 2, 2018 in Notable real cases | Permalink

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