Resolution Endorsing the Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007, HR 4109

WHEREAS, Congress passed the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) in 1996 with a stated purpose of curtailing frivolous litigation by prisoners by various means including but not limited to, requiring exhaustion of available administrative remedies, reducing attorney fee hourly rates and allowing for early dismissal of “frivolous” cases;

WHEREAS, the PLRA was not closely examined by the appropriate congressional committees and was passed as a rider to an appropriations bill;

WHEREAS, the PLRA places formidable and often insurmountable obstacles in the paths of incarcerated individuals seeking redress from the courts for violations of federally secured rights;

WHEREAS, the PLRA singles out for differential treatment individuals who are particularly vulnerable to violations to their constitutional and other legal rights due to high levels of illiteracy and mental illness;

WHEREAS, the Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007, HR 4109, addresses the above-recited concerns regarding the deficiencies of the PLRA;

WHEREAS, the Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007 would effect the following changes in the PLRA:

  1. Repeal the requirement that prisoners (including committed and detained juveniles and pretrial detainees, as well as sentenced prisoners) suffer a physical injury in order to recover for mental or emotional injuries caused by their subjection to cruel and unusual punishment or other illegal conduct;
  2. Amend the requirement for exhaustion of administrative remedies to require that a prisoner who has not exhausted administrative remedies at the time a lawsuit is filed be permitted to pursue the claim through an administrative- remedy process, with the lawsuit stayed for up to 90 days pending the administrative processing of the claim;
  3. Repeal the restrictions on the equitable authority of federal courts in conditions-of-confinement cases;
  4. Amend the PLRA to allow prisoners who prevail on civil rights claims to recover attorney's fees on the same basis as the general public in civil rights cases;
  5. Repeal the provisions extending the PLRA to juveniles confined in juvenile detention and correctional facilities; and
  6. Repeal the filing fee provisions that apply only to prisoners.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports the amendments to the PLRA encompassed by the Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007, or similar legislation, which would ensure that prisoners are afforded meaningful access to the judicial process to vindicate their constitutional and other legal rights and that prisoners are subject to procedures applicable to the general public when bringing lawsuits.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor or his designee communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association’s position to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation and urge our Members of Congress and Senators to vote in favor of the Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007, HR 4109.