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.
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