Many long-term prisoners take up studying law, hoping to find out something that can help them get out. If you are also stuck inside for a federal crime, you might hear someone talking about habeas corpus and wonder if you could use it to get free.
Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase meaning “show me the body.” Its legal usage dates back to times when local authorities would convict someone or hold them prisoner based on somewhat dubious grounds, and a higher authority might challenge their action to see if the detainment was indeed lawful or not. It prevents people from being thrown into jail and “left to rot” without valid and legitimate reasons.
Depriving people of their liberty clearly still goes on throughout the world. Its commonly used to get rid of political opponents, for example. Yet, you may still need to claim habeas corpus if you are in the United States.
Is my incarceration legal?
That is the question you will be asking if you file for habeas corpus. Remember, the law is a massively technical and complex subject that people can interpret in different ways. So having a legal team go through your case, and the laws under which you were convicted and incarcerated with a fine toothcomb may be your last chance to win your freedom. Typically you only go to this option once other options such as appeals have failed.
However much faith people have in the justice system, it is clear that many errors get made, causing untold harm and grief to innocent people and their families. However hopeless your case may seem, it is always wise to continue examining options to overturn your wrongful conviction.