UnCommon Law is a California non-profit law office whose mission is to help long-term prisoners understand and resolve the factors that contributed to their crimes so that they can safely be released. We work with prisoners for months or years in advance of their parole board hearings, and we represent them in those hearings and in court petitions challenging the parole board and the Governor.

In this video, client Troy Williams and our founder, Keith Wattley, discuss why it’s so difficult for prisoners to rehabilitate themselves in a system built to warehouse them.

In January of 2016, Sam Levin of the East Bay Express produced two powerful pieces on California’s parole consideration process:

  • Part One shows how arbitrary parole decisions needlessly keep life-term prisoners behind bars for decades after they have been rehabilitated;
  • Part Two shows how abuse and insensitivity by parole commissioners can discourage prisoners from openly exploring the traumatic experiences that contributed to their crimes.

Both articles feature several of UnCommon Law’s clients, and both highlight the importance of our comprehensive and personal approach to advocacy (see the video accompanying Part One here).



Over the last two decades, there has been a dramatic improvement in how the parole board determines whether and when to set life-term prisoners (“lifers”) free. Through the efforts of many individuals and organizations, we have helped the parole board see the humanity behind the numbers. As a result, lifers now have a much better opportunity to show the parole board that they are ready for a safe return to their families and communities. 

We have found that, in addition to advocacy, visual media can help people on the outside understand what’s possible on the inside. We are fortunate to have access to films that shed light on how people in prison transform themselves by engaging in education, vocational training, self-help programs, and therapy.


On October 4th at 6:30 PM, we will hold a screening of They Call Us Monsters at The New Parkway in Oakland, followed by a discussion with the producer/director Ben Lear. This award-winning film provides a glimpse into the lives of children facing substantial time in adult prison under harsh laws. You can reserve tickets HERE. For more information, visit our event page

This film event directly supports the work of UnCommon Law. Please join us and spread the word! 

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You can always support UnCommon Law by making a tax-deductible donation. Donate online at uncommonlaw.org/support-us — or mail us a check at 220 4th Street, Suite 103, Oakland, CA 94607. Thank you for your continued support.

— Keith Wattley, Founder and Executive Director