FEDERAL LAW EFFECTIVELY SILENCES INMATES ABOUT ABUSES

Law professors Margo Schlanger of Washington University, St. Louis, and Giovanna Shay of Yale indict the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act(PLRA) of 1996 for “undermining the rule of law in America’s prisons” by “preventing inmates from raising legitimate claims” against their keepers.

.... The co-authors point to a case in South Bend, Ind., where a young male was repeatedly beaten with “padlock-laden socks” and raped and subsequently suffered a seizure. .... a district court dismissed the claim of the inmate’s family on grounds the youth had not filed a grievance in the facility..... the PLRA does not allow inmate plaintiffs to recover damages for “mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” .... some courts have deemed sexual assault does not constitute a “physical injury” .... not even an allegation of coerced sodomy.... burns to the plaintiff’s face were deemed insufficient, because those burns had ‘healed well,’ leaving no lasting effect.” .... The point is that PLRA “has made it far more difficult for prisoners to enforce any non-physical rights---including freedom of religion and freedom of speech---and to seek compensation for any mental rather than physical harm, no matter how intentionally, even torturously, inflicted....

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