Why Must the PLRA be Reformed ? :
• Physical Injury Requirement: Under the PLRA, prisoners can be raped and sexually assaulted
and not have access to the range of remedies available to most civil rights plaintiffs because some
courts say they've suffered no "physical injury." Other forms of cruel and unusual punishment,
such as grossly unsanitary conditions and cavalier disregard of prisoners' medical needs, also do
not meet the "physical injury" requirement for such claims.
• Physical Injury Requirement: Many constitutional violations do not result in physical injuries.
As a result of the PLRA's "physical injury" requirement, courts, for example, often deny
prisoners remedies for violations of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.
• Exhaustion Requirement: The PLRA's exhaustion provisions require prisoners to exhaust their
facilities' grievance process no matter how legitimate the reasons for failing to follow grievance
procedures might be.
• Exhaustion Requirement: Prison and jail grievance systems have created a baffling maze in
which a barely literate, mentally ill, physically incapacitated, or juvenile prisoner's procedural
misstep in a facility's informal grievance system forever bars even the most meritorious
constitutional claims. Moreover, grievance deadlines are often a matter of days, with no
exceptions for prisoners who are ill, hospitalized, traumatized or otherwise incapacitated.
• Application to Child Prisoners: Applying the PLRA to juveniles serves neither the goals of the Act nor the welfare of our country's children. The PLRA was designed to reduce the number of frivolous prisoner lawsuits reaching the courts, but there is no evidence that juveniles ever filed frivolous lawsuits even before the PLRA's passage. Incarcerated children and youth generally lack the literacy skills, knowledge of the court system and access to legal materials that would be needed to engage in litigation.
• Application to Child Prisoners: Children and youth are even more vulnerable than adult prisoners to sexual abuse and other victimization. Yet the PLRA undermines protections for children by denying them access to the federal courts and the oversight and accountability that the courts provide. The PLRA has negatively impacted incarcerated youth generally, but a few provisions in particular have proven especially troublesome for juveniles. Most prominent among them is the exhaustion requirement. Many youth do not have the capacity to navigate complex written grievance procedures, others either are not even aware of the grievance systems in their facilities, and many more fear retaliation for filing grievances. As a result, child abuse goes unaddressed and unabated in our nation's correctional facilities.
• Attorneys Fees Provision: The PLRA's fee restrictions often make it cost-prohibitive for
attorneys to represent prisoners. Ironically, this places greater burdens on courts to process cases
in which prisoners, who are not conversant with the law and court rules, must represent
• Prospective Relief Provision: Courts must be able to decide on the best remedies for
constitutional violations, and their authority to ensure that violations do not happen again should
not be curtailed when hearing cases brought by prisoners.
• Filing Fee Provision: The PLRA's filing-fee provisions deter indigent prisoners whose
constitutional rights have been violated from seeking the legal redress to which they are entitled.
• Three Strikes Provision: The PLRA's "three strikes" provision effectively bars the filing of
lawsuits by indigent prisoners who made mistakes in prior cases due to their lack of access to
counsel or legal training.
Congress Must Amend the PLRA as Follows :
1 Repeal the provision that prohibits prisoners from bringing lawsuits for mental or emotional
injury without demonstrating a "physical injury." (Repeal 42 U.S. C. § 1997e(e).)
2. Amend the requirement for exhaustion of administrative remedies to require prisoners to
present their claims to responsible prison officials before filing suit, and, if they fail to do so,
require the court to stay the case for up to 90 days and return it to prison officials to provide
them the opportunity to resolve the complaint administratively. (Amend 42 U.S. C. § 1997e(a).)
3. Restore judicial discretion to grant the same range of remedies in prisoners' civil rights actions
that they possess in other civil rights cases. (Repeal 18 U.S. C. § 3626.)
4. Allow prisoners who prevail on civil rights claims to recover reasonable attorney's fees like
others whose civil rights have been violated. (Repeal 42 U.S. C. § 1997e(d).)
5. Allow indigent prisoners whose cases are found to state a valid claim at the preliminary
screening stage to pay a partial filing fee rather than the full filing fee, now $350 in district
courts and $450 in appellate courts. (Amend 28 U.S. C. § 1915(a), (b).)
6. Amend the "three-strikes provision" (which requires certain indigent prisoners who have
previously had three cases dismissed to pay the full filing fee up front) by limiting it to prisoners
who have had 3 lawsuits or appeals dismissed as malicious within the past 5 years. (Amend 28
U.S. C. § 1915(g).)
7. Repeal the provisions extending the PLRA to juveniles confined in juvenile facilities. (Amend 18
U.S. C. § 3626(g), 42 U.S. C. § 1997e(h), 28 U.S. C. § 1915(h), 28 U.S. C. § 1915A(c).)
For more details about SAVE's proposed reforms CLICK HERE
COALITION TO STOP ABUSE AND VIOLENCE EVERYWHERE (S.A.V.E.)
Contact Amy Fettig, (202) 548-6608, email@example.com