Shon Hopwood, a five-time bank robber who went to jail and studied law while imprisoned, managed to write a petition that made it all the way to Supreme Court; now that he’s served his time, he has married and is currently at the University of Washington’s law school thanks to a scholarship from the Bill and Miranda Gates foundation.
Hopwood, who wrote a book about his life experiences and law study in prison titled Law Man, spoke to the media about what entering jail was like when he was 23.
“Although I was
scared, I wanted to see the place and know that I could handle it — that I could survive.”
What he discovered about the penal system was interesting.
“If you had a summer camp for kids with extreme anger management problems, and you took away most of the adults, added weapons, and you didn’t let anyone go home for years and years, you’d have a U.S. prison. It’s strictly ‘Lord of the Flies.’”
While studying law via correspondence courses, he helped a fellow prisoner with his case. The case came to the attention of the Supreme Court, and not only was Hopwood’s petition accepted, the judges agreed with his argument in the Fellers v. United States case. According to legal experts, the chances of the Supreme Court accepting a brief written by a prisoner are extremely slim; only one percent of the tens of thousands written get accepted.
While the book talks about Hopwood’s prison life and legal wrangling, it doesn’t explain where he learned how to argue so successfully. Perhaps when he’s finished his law studies with Bill Gates’ help he’ll let the public in on his secret.