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Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption

Law Man is an improbable-but-true memoir of redemption — the story of a young bank robber who became the greatest jailhouse lawyer in American history, and who changed not just his own life, but the lives of everyone around him.

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Shon Hopwood was a good kid from a good Nebraskan family, a small-town basketball star whose parents had started a local church. Few who knew him as a friendly teen would have imagined that, shortly after returning home from the Navy, he’d be adrift with few prospects and plotting to rob a bank.  But rob he did, committing five heists before being apprehended.

Only twenty three and potentially facing twelve years in Illinois’ Pekin Federal Prison, Shon feared his life was already over. He’d shamed himself and his loving family and friends, and a part of him wanted to die.  He wasn’t sure at first if he’d survive the prison gangs, but slowly glimmers of hope appeared.  He earned some respect on the prison basketball court, received a steady flow of letters from hometown well wishers, including a note from a special girl whom he’d thought too beautiful to ever pay him notice – and, most crucially, he secured a job in the prison law library.

It was an assignment that would prove his salvation.

Poring over the library’s thick legal volumes, Shon discovered that he had a knack for the law, and he soon became the go-to guy for inmates seeking help. Then came a request to write a complex petition to the Supreme Court – a high-wire act of jailhouse lawyering that had never before met with success.

By the time Shon walked out of Pekin Prison he’d pulled off a series of legal miracles, earned the undying gratitude of numerous inmates, won the woman of his dreams, and built a new life for himself far greater than anything he could have imagined.

A story that mixes moments of high-adrenaline with others of deep poignancy, Law Man is a powerful reminder that even the worst mistakes can be redeemed through faith, hard work and the love and support of others.

Reviews and Blurbs

“Hopwood delivers an unusual tale of punishment and redemption … The prose is clear and thoughtful, vividly illustrating the grim absurdity of life in prison, and most readers will root for Hopwood’s attempts to follow a different path … Will appeal to fans of legal thrillers and stories of redemption.”

Kirkus Reviews


“Law Man is a prison memoir and a story of redemption, and Hopwood would be the first to point out how seldom those two things combine. While his own story moves from bleak to fairy-tale fantastic so swiftly you half-expect the inmates to line up and start singing “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” behind him, he notes in a sobering aside that the system’s initial goal of rehabilitation has been abandoned. Prison is now a multi-billion dollar business with a dirt-cheap labor force that is overwhelmingly African-American. That his legal help shortened a few of their sentences is small comfort, but Hopwood’s own transformation is both moving and inspiring.”

— Heather Seggel at BookPage


“Stories of redemption are not exactly in short supply—even ones written by ex-cons are plentiful—but this one succeeds because it is simply told. Rather than load his story up with obvious spiritual themes and life-affirming messages, Hopwood tells us about his life as he lived it, the good stuff and the bad stuff, and allows us to derive our own messages from the story.”

— David Pitt at Booklist Online


“The only thing more remarkable than Shon Hopwood’s against-all-odds redemption is the skill with which he’s told his story. A good lawyer needs brains, compassion, insight, and a sense of humor. LAW MAN displays all these traits in abundance. The verdict is in, and this is an outstanding book.”

— Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D., coauthor BEHIND BARS: SURVIVING PRISON


“LAW MAN transcends the ‘prison memoir’ genre and offers a redemptive tale of the human spirit. From his damning portrait of his own transgressions to his exploration of criminal law, family, God, and love, Shon Hopwood paints a broad, troubling, wonderful canvass of a life transformed.”

–James S. Hirsch, New York Times bestselling author of HURRICANE: THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF RUBIN CARTER


“A magnificent book that captures the complexity of the American prison system – both its casual savagery and its unanticipated ennobling aspects.  What is ironic about this tale is also what is hugely intriguing, that a man sentenced to ten years for flouting the law is ultimately redeemed by his passion for the law, and for justice.   This amazing story provides hope that people really can change their lives and make a difference.”

–Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and author of THE CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON THE CONSTITUTION


“Shon Hopwood’s remarkable accomplishments show that a man defines himself not by the decisions of his past, but through the perseverance and passion he musters to become something more.  His inspiring story, skillfully written, provides compelling evidence that even from within the dark depths of a lengthy prison term through discipline and commitment a man can tap into the light of liberty.  Deliberate choices Mr. Hopwood made led to more than changing the law at the highest levels and advancing justice for all.  Perhaps even more important, he gives us a living breathing example of how an incarcerated individual can thrive, creating meaning and self-respect through a commitment to improving the lives of others.”

–Michael G. Santos, INSIDE: LIFE BEHIND BARS IN AMERICA


“Much of this memoir’s success can be chalked up to Hopwood’s distinctive voice and quietly beguiling character. He also deftly integrates his portrait of prison life with eminently readable explanations of American constitutional law.”
Winnepeg Free Press