PLRA provides additional burdens for federal civil rights plaintiffs to address unconstitutionality of prison conditions, such as:
- guard brutality;
- prolonged solitary confinement;
- denial of the most basic medical care;
- discrimination on the basis of religion;
- denial of rights of communication with family;
- punishment for maintaining innocence after conviction
The underlying rationale for enactment of PLRA was that prisoners have nothing to do but sit behind bars and file frivolous lawsuit against the government, wasting taxpayer money for defense of such lawsuits, and that prisoner lawsuits are nothing more than frivolous claims on the taste of peanut butter in prisoner food.
Yet, scholars pointed out that what is taken away by PRLA was more than crunchy peanut butter. It was a vast assault upon civil rights of prisoners.
PRLA is used to prevent not lawsuits for the quality of peanut butter (a legitimate claim, by the way, if that peanut butter is rotten and dangerous to prisoner's health, but is given to them anyway, with no other choices, or if prisoners are allergic to it), but lawsuits about ANY civil rights violations.
When people in the position of power, who were already not models in observing civil rights of prisoners, were given a carte blanche by PLRA, hell broke lose in prison conditions.
The hell is described here.
In Arizona, prison officials offered to a cancer patient, instead of diagnostics and treatment, to drink "energy shakes". They had him admitted to a hospital only when he ballooned to the size of a pregnant woman on the verge of labor, his LUNG cancer methastasized into abdominal organs - and he died in that hospital.
That death, and many others, is the DIRECT result of PLRA.
That treatment of human beings is inhumane.
That treatment is TORTURE, prohibited by the International Human Rights Convention - to which the U.S. is a member.
As an intern in Prisoners Legal Services of New York, I read with complete astonishment cases where prisoners were denied pain relief in cases of bone fractures.
Complaining to courts made little difference.
Even when such prisoners broke through the 15-day statute of limitations and the "exhaustion of administrative remedies" requirements, for which they could be punished even more, courts tossed their complaints not finding a constitutional violation in denying of pain relief to a caged human being for over a week for fractured bones.
I can take bets, ladies and gentlemen, that if those fractured bones would be fractured bones of a caged animal or pet, petitions would be spreading by now all over the place and judges would quickly change their decisions, calling such inhumane treatment improper.
With human beings, inhumane treatment is, obviously, nothing to worry about, it is business as usual in federal courts.
That said - in an emotional way - let's get down to business and analyze PLRA in a legal way.
In Marbury v Madison, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that an unconstitutional conduct by the government is VOID. Not voidable, but void, as in - was never legal.
VOID means that there is no time limit to challenge the void act, there is no way to waive a constitutional violation, and there is no way to defend against it.
Yet, PLRA does just that - it imposes a 15-day (!) statute of limitations, it requires "exhaustion of administrative remedies" as a condition precedent to the right to sue in federal court for a FEDERAL constitutional violation - something no other civil rights plaintiffs are required to do.
And, with the existence of the 3-strikes-and-you-are-out statute I've written about before that blocks access to court for prisoners completely, including to those who were merely detained and not yet convicted, the gutting of any semblance of a legal remedy for inhumane conditions in detention (being held in custody of the government before conviction) and incarceration (being held in custody of the government after conviction) is complete.
Where courts consider anything that a civil rights plaintiff, and especially a prisoner, files - frivolous, with a certification of frivolousness precluding an appeal, it is only a matter of time for a prisoner to acquire those 3 strikes - even if he or she diligently complied, often risking his or her safety or health, with the draconian requirements of PRLA - a 15-day statute of limitations and "exhaustion of administrative remedies", or requests filed with the same people who brutalize you, starve you and deny you minimal medical care.
By showing the disaster that ensued after enactment of PLRA, I want people to realize - gutting the rights of victims of constitutional violations, especially the most vulnerable class of such victims, the caged people who are under total control of prison authorities and depend on them for anything and everything, including food and healthcare - leads to very real deaths.
And, if you think rights of prisoners do not matter, think again.
With nearly 99% of conviction rate through pleas, with the death penalty still on the table, with prosecutors falsifying and concealing evidence, police officers lying on the stand, with no proper effective genuine legal defense in criminal cases available, unless you can afford a private counsel, all average American is just one false report away from the reach of PLRA.
Be very afraid.
And petition your representative to repeal PLRA.
It leads to torturous deaths.
The U.S. cannot maintain its claimed status of a civilized country and of a beacon of democracy and freedom when it treats its prisoners in a way that would be considered inhumane for an animal, and deny those prisoners even a right to complain and obtain legal remedies for such treatment.