Prisoner Abuse Legislative Fix Introduced

Last week, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced his Prisoner Abuse Remedies Act. As the New York Times opines today, this is a bill Congress needs to pass.

The culprit is the Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA) passed under President Clinton in 1996. It was aimed at reducing frivolous lawsuits by prisoners, but due to its requirement that the prisoner sustained a physical injury and exhausted all administrative avenues before filing suit, it became a vehicle through which prisons and courts denied claims by inmates who were sodomized (finding no physical injury) and the victims of other conduct, such as "strip-searching of female prisoners by male guards; revealing to other inmates that a prisoner was H.I.V.-positive; forcing an inmate to stand naked for 10 hours."

Juveniles, who are most at risk in prison, often have the hardest time following through with the administrative hurdles. [More...]

Rep. Scott's bill would reform the PLRA by removing the physical injury requirement and using the standard applicable in other civil rights litigation. It would also allow prisoners under 18 to file suit.

In 2007, we had a Republican dominated Congress and the bill failed. This year, there's no excuse. This is a bill that needs to pass both houses.

The ACLU has been fighting for this reform bill for a long time. The current version is not yet available from the GPO, but I'll update with the text when it becomes available.

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    Sounds like... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 08:55:11 AM EST
    a no-brainer to pass...though there are probably more legislators who take heart in the fact our prisons are referred to as p.m.i.t.a's than we'd care to admit.

    Democrats have been making the same mistake, (none / 0) (#2)
    by esmense on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 10:56:39 AM EST
    or, perhaps, let's be honest, pursuing the same intentional (although personally unacknowledged?) strategy, for the last 30+ years; using ultimately unworkable welfare sops to brush the consequences of massive economic change under the rug. over the decades, as these changes devasted inner city African American communities, pushed the working class into two and three job, and now no job, poverty, destroyed private sector unions and hollowed out the middle class, when push came to shove, they always, always, always sided with the most powerful interests. Offering at best a few welfare sops to obscure that fact. This sell out on health reform is only the last iteration.

    When, in the 60s & 70s, our major cities were being de-industrialized and minorities, the last ones in so to speak in terms of reaping benefits from industrialization, were stranded in collapsing economies, did the prevailing "liberal" discourse frame this in terms of the broader economic problem it was, treat people affected with respect, make honestly discussing our economic future (automation, globalization), protecting working class interests and re-vitalizing our cities a priority? No. "Liberal" leaders, specifically Moynihan, led a debate over the "underclass" that, for the next 30 years, substituted an argument over welfare (whether it was deserved, how much to provide, who should pay for it) for honesty about what was happening to the American economy.

    When these structural changes began to most seriously affect the white working class, "liberals" did little more than suggest they simply train and educate themselves out of the working class. Once again refusing to rock the boat or upset their increasingly important Wall Street supporters, by honestly discussing, much less addressing, the larger problem of structural change -- the ways unregulated financial elites were taking advantage of that change, and the inevitable consequences for almost everyone else down the line.

    Why, as the rot of a failing economy continues to spread farther and farther up the economic ladder, should we expect anything more from them than just another sorry, totally inadequate, welfare sop?

    The problem isn't that they aren't well-intentioned, or don't care. The problem is that they don't know (much). And that it isn't in their own personal interest, economic and political, to do so.

    Among the many problems created by the welfare approach the worst is this; it fails to frame the problem, correctly, as one that affects the entire society and will have consequences for everyone down the road, and instead makes it a problem that pits the interests of one group against another (the middle class against the "underclass," rich against poor, etc.)and destroys social unity.

    Wow, did I post that in the wrong thread. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by esmense on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 11:02:48 AM EST
    I apologize. That's what I get for ranting when I should be working. (Good thing I'm the boss.)

    "remove the physical abuse"??? (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 11:23:25 AM EST
    Well, you can make rape/sodomy without permanent damage specifically eligible without making it possible for inmates to file frivolous lawsuits for "verbal" abuse such as being yelled at and "mentally traumatized".

    apparently we do have universal torture... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Palli on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 09:48:01 PM EST
    off to write my Representatives to move on this bill asap...those Blackwater and Rumsfeld torturers will be coming home with new techniques at some point.