Walter "Bud" Balla, a "jailhouse lawyer" whose legal efforts were instrumental in the modernization of the Idaho State Penitentiary, has been released after more than 20 years behind bars.

Balla was released from the prison south of Boise about noon Friday. He was not supposed to be released until August, but Corrections Director Dick Vernon said that since he had a good job opportunity, prison officials decided to set him free.Vernon did not say what the job offer was. Balla was first sent to the Idaho State Penitentiary in June 1968 on a robbery charge and was finishing a 10-year indeterminate term for assault with a deadly weapon at the time of his release. That charge stemmed from the slashing of a guard's throat during an escape in 1978, one of three times he escaped.

In 1984, Balla led fellow inmates to a landmark federal court victory that declared the 680-inmate prison overcrowded and lacking in basic services.