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Prisoner Resources

The resources on this page apply to civil cases that are filed by federal and state prisoners and motions filed in federal criminal cases under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The resources include guidebooks, information sheets, and forms.


Prisoner Litigation Guidebooks

These guidebooks explain many of the procedures that apply in the four types of prisoner cases. Each guidebook contains an appendix of forms to use for each type of prisoner case.

  • Pro Se Guidebook for Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (the general habeas corpus statute)

    Petitions brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 usually involve one of the following situations: (1) a federal prisoner believes that the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") has wrongly computed his release date, (2) a federal prisoner believes that the BOP has wrongly taken away some of his "goodtime credits," (thereby extending the duration of his confinement), (3) a federal prisoner is seeking an expedited transfer to a "residential re-entry center", (i.e., a "half way house"), or (4) a person who is being detained by federal immigration authorities while awaiting deportation. State pre-trial detainees can also seek habeas relief by filing a § 2241 petition.

  • Pro Se Guidebook for Cases Filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (state prisoners)

    A petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 can be brought by persons in custody pursuant to a state court judgment to challenge the validity of the judgment that caused him or her to be confined.

  • Pro Se Guidebook for Motions Filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (federal prisoners)

    Motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 can be made, after a direct appeal has been decided, by federal prisoners challenging a conviction or sentence caused by a judgment in a federal criminal case.

  • Prisoner Civil Rights Claims (civil actions for damages or injunctive relief, not release from prison)

    Prisoner civil rights cases arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under that statute, a prisoner must allege a violation of a right protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute caused by the conduct of a person acting under color of state law (for example, a state prison employee). If the illegal conduct was by a person acting under color of federal law, you may use the same form to file a Bivens action. Please refer to the Pro Se Civil Guidebook for guidance on filing a prisoner civil rights claim.


Information Sheets

Below are links to several Information Sheets that provide basic information about specific procedures that are relevant to prisoner cases. See the description of the Guidebooks above to find out which type of case or motion you want to file, then look at the related Information Sheet to find out how to get started. Information Sheets Nos. 1A-1D describe the basic steps necessary to start each type of prisoner case or post-conviction motion. Information Sheet No. 2 describes the basic information about delivering your summons and complaint to each defendant in the manner required by law. Information Sheet No. 6 explains how to learn the status of a prisoner case. Information Sheet No. 7 explains when to file an appeal and how to file an appeal in a prisoner case.




Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241
Petition for Relief From a Conviction or Sentence by a Person in State Custody (Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus)
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255)
Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint
(PDF)  (DOC)
(JS-44) Civil Cover Sheet
(AO239) Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs



Motion Form
(PDF)  (DOC)
Memorandum of Law
(PDF)  (DOC)
Certificate of Service by Mail
LR 7.1 Word Count Compliance


Other Forms