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.

On January 6, 2016 and January 13, 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 – inside as much as out – 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 to for a safe return to their families and communities. 

In addition to  advocacy, we have found that visual media can instantly 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 using education, vocational training, self-help programs, and therapy to address the many factors that contributed to terrible decisions in their past.


On October 4 at 6:30 PM, we will hold a special screening of They Call Us Monsters at The New Parkway in Oakland. This award-winning film provides a window into the lives of children who are facing substantial time in adult prison under draconian laws — laws that failed to account for the unique circumstances of their youth and their capacity to change. 

Please spread the word, and check back with us soon for a link to purchase advance tickets. Meanwhile, you can view a short clip of the film here

This film event will directly support the work of UnCommon Law, enabling us to reach even more people in prison and help them safely rejoin their families and communities. We hope you can join us. 

* * *

You can always support our work by making a tax-deductible donation. Just click the “Donate” button on the right — or send a check to us at 220 4th Street, Suite 103, Oakland, CA 94607. Thank you for your continued support.

— Keith Wattley, Founder and Executive Director