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NCJ Number: 184015 Find in a Library
Title: Psychological Injury and the Prison Litigation Reform Act: A "Not Exactly," Equal Protection Analysis
Journal: Harvard Journal on Legislation  Volume:37  Issue:1  Dated:Winter 2000  Pages:105-158
Author(s): James E. Robertson
Date Published: 2000
Page Count: 54
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article critiques the 1996 Federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, which curtails prisoners' rights both to proceed in forma pauperis in Federal courts and to claim damages for psychological injury without accompanying physical injury (Section 1997e[e]).
Abstract: Part I examines the origins of Section 1997e(e) and briefly reviews the case law that addresses its reach and scope. Part I argues that section 1997e(e) impacts inmates in a significant and disparate manner, thereby inviting equal protection scrutiny. Part II addresses the pivotal question of the article: Are inmates a discrete and insular minority? The article answers this question by drawing an analogy to the archetypal discrete and insular minority: black Americans of the Carolene era. Part II argues that inmates are similar to but "not exactly" like Carolene-era blacks and are thus deserving of heightened protection from discriminatory legislation. Part III considers whether there is an "exceedingly persuasive justification" for Section 1997e(e). Delineated in United States v. Virginia (1996) for another group similar to but "not exactly" like blacks, this degree of equal protection scrutiny requires "searching analysis" of both the legislative "ends" and "means." Part III argues that pejorative exaggeration dominates the government's case for prison litigation reform, and Section 1997e(e) as a means to that end rests on unwarranted assumptions. Hence, the psychological injury provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act cannot withstand the "searching analysis" advocated by the "Virginia" court and this article. 360 footnotes
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Emotional disorders; Equal Protection; Federal Code; Inmate lawsuits; Prison conditions
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