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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? reaching federal district courts (Woodford, 2006). As one recent scholar has put it, after Woodford, “[t]here can no longer be any doubt that the exhaustion ball is fully in the prisons’ court” (Novikov, 2008, p. 830). Thus, in the span of less than of six (6) years, the Courts had both loosened (i.e., via cases like Camp v. Brennan) and tightened (i.e., via cases like Woodford v. Ngo) the actual requirements of the PLRA exhaustion provision. (Maddex, 2006). The two juxtaposed concepts arising from these cases – substantial compliance and proper exhaustion – have never been reconciled (Novikov, 2008). The resulting confusion has created a climate of arbitrary and caprice in which meritorious and frivolous claims appear equally likely to make it to federal court or, conversely, to be screened well before arriving there (Chen, 2004, p. 218). One does not have to search long and hard to find examples of this phenomenon. Case in point: a comparison between the matter Ali v. McAnany and the matter Hicks v. Monteiro. In Ali v. McAnany, a pro se prisoner-plaintiff, held in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, brought a section 1983 civil rights action regarding events alleged to have occurred when he was confined in a maximum-security facility known as the State Correctional Institution at Greene, or SCI-Greene (Ali, 2006). As a Capital Case Unit inmate, Ali was required to submit himself for a DNA blood test (Ali, 2006). When the corrections staff refused to allow him to sign the medical consent form using his Muslim name, Immanuel Basil Ali, rather than his real name, Michael Lester, he refused to give his consent for the blood test (Ali, 2006). As a result, on January 22, 2004, Ali was confined to a chair and his blood was drawn against his will (Ali, 2006). Most likely because Ali had been an intravenous drug user prior to his 17

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
reaching federal district courts (Woodford, 2006).  As one recent scholar has put it, after 
Woodford, “[t]here can no longer be any doubt that the exhaustion ball is fully in the 
prisons’ court” (Novikov, 2008, p. 830).   
Thus, in the span of less than of six (6) years, the Courts had both loosened (i.e., 
via cases like Camp v. Brennan) and tightened (i.e., via cases like Woodford v. Ngo) the 
actual requirements of the PLRA exhaustion provision. (Maddex, 2006).  The two 
juxtaposed concepts arising from these cases – substantial compliance and proper 
exhaustion – have never been reconciled (Novikov, 2008).  The resulting confusion has 
created a climate of arbitrary and caprice in which meritorious and frivolous claims 
appear equally likely to make it to federal court or, conversely, to be screened well before 
arriving there (Chen, 2004, p. 218).  One does not have to search long and hard to find 
examples of this phenomenon.  Case in point: a comparison between the matter Ali v. 
McAnany and the matter Hicks v. Monteiro.  
In Ali v. McAnany, a pro se prisoner-plaintiff, held in the custody of the 
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, brought a section 1983 civil rights action 
regarding events alleged to have occurred when he was confined in a maximum-security 
facility known as the State Correctional Institution at Greene, or SCI-Greene (Ali, 2006). 
As a Capital Case Unit inmate, Ali was required to submit himself for a DNA blood test 
(Ali, 2006).  When the corrections staff refused to allow him to sign the medical consent 
form using his Muslim name, Immanuel Basil Ali, rather than his real name, Michael 
Lester, he refused to give his consent for the blood test (Ali, 2006).  As a result, on 
January 22, 2004, Ali was confined to a chair and his blood was drawn against his will 
(Ali, 2006).  Most likely because Ali had been an intravenous drug user prior to his 
17


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