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NCJ Number: 200200 Find in a Library
Title: Inmate Litigation
Journal: Harvard Law Review  Volume:116  Issue:6  Dated:April 2003  Pages:1555-1706
Author(s): Margo Schlanger
Date Published: April 2003
Page Count: 152
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the implications and outcomes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that was passed by Congress in 1996.
Abstract: The PLRA was a result of discontent on the part of various States to the mounting lawsuits being waged against them by prisoners. Driven by the steep increase in the number of prisoners in State and Federal institutions during the 1980’s and 1990’s, coupled with an active and influential prisoners’ rights movement, civil litigation complaints brought by inmates in Federal court steadily rose over the course of the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1995, inmates filed 40,000 Federal civil lawsuits. The PLRA worked to discourage inmate lawsuits by placing filing fees on every inmate bringing a lawsuit, requiring inmates to exhaust all administrative remedies prior to filing lawsuits, and limiting damages and attorneys’ fees. Since its passage, lawsuits filed by inmates dropped by 43 percent in 2001, at the same time that nationwide inmate populations increased by 23 percent. This article discusses the implications and effects of the PLRA on inmates and the justice system. Section 1 examines inmate litigation trends, including the subject matter of litigation, litigation rates, and how inmate cases are processed. Section 2 examines outcomes of inmate cases prior to the passage of the PLRA, including issues related to legal rights, access to courts, and obstacles to settlements. Section 3 focuses on how the PLRA changed the face of inmate litigation by imposing filing fees, limiting damages, and placing administrative constraints on inmates. Section 4 describes how the PLRA has affected the justice system by shrinking case dockets and decreasing the success rate of inmate cases. Section 5 takes a broad look at the implications of the PLRA for the justice system as a whole and explores the meaning of deterrence. Finally, section 6 offers conclusions that suggest the justice system indeed needed repair, but the PLRA was not the best solution for the problem.
Main Term(s): Civil litigation; Inmate grievances
Index Term(s): Federal courts; Federal legislation; Inmate lawsuits; Prisoner's rights
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