Thank you for your recent  inquiry of the A.C.L.U.  You should be aware of two things. First, The ACLU’s resources are  limited to dealing with cases having clear-cut Constitutional issues.  On the opposite side of this page are our guidelines for case acceptance. Also included are the Constitutional Amendments  with which we deal.   Second, the Intake Person who answered your call is not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice. You can do research on ACLU policies, activities and achievements related to your situation on the ACLU Freedom Network web site
	If you have been accused of a crime and cannot afford an attorney, you should contact the Public Defender’s Office, 509 Sassafras St., Erie, Pa. 16507 at 451-6322 or  Federal Public Defender 113 W. 9th. St., Erie, Pa. 16501 at 455-8085. They have contract attorneys as well as investigators. General legal information is available in Erie County through an automated telephone service called “TeLLaw” at 455-8700.  Northwestern Legal Services, 1001 State St., Erie, Pa.   has attorneys who  assist persons within  low income guidelines with civil matters such as public benefits, housing problems, family law, health care access, education, and  employment. They may be reached for ‘phone advice at 1-800-665-6957.  For matters involving discrimination, a possibility for help is the Erie County Human Relations Commission at 451-7021. There is also a free public law library in the Erie County Court House, 140 West 6th. St. with a professional law librarian who can assist you.
	If you are a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime, please understand that the A.C.L.U. does not have money to hire lawyers to appeal criminal cases with little explicit civil rights involvement. If you are suffering cruel and unusual punishment in prison, most Eighth Amendment civil rights suits are brought under 42 U.S.C. Sect. 1983  which provides that anyone who, under color of law deprives you of any rights secured by the Constitution shall be liable to the party injured (you)  in an action at law, etc.  Help may be available through the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project at 215-925-2966. The western division office of this is headed by Attorney Jere Krakoff at 1705 Allegheny Building, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15219, at 412-232-0276.  From the Law Project you can receive “The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual” with which you can prepare your own lawsuits.  Another excellent work is the “Prisoner’s Self-Help Litigation Manual,” by John Boston and Dan Manville, 3rd. edition, Oceana Publications, Inc., New York.	These may already be available in your prison law library.	  																	Sincerely yours,
									Robert Cogan, 
									ACLU Intake Person
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