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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? Amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. XI, 1798). A statutory vehicle, known as Section 1983, is necessary for a prisoner-plaintiff’s constitutional claims to proceed against such a government entity (Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights, 1996; Collins, 2005). Section 1983 was originally enacted in 1871 in response to growing concerns regarding domestic acts of terrorism at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan (Fradella, 1998). At its inception, section 1983 was intended to be used as a way for private citizens to meaningfully enforce their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of law (Fradella, 1998). Ironically, section 1983 went largely unused until the 1960s when inmate litigation came to the fore (Fradella, 1998). In the context of prisoner litigation, section 1983 enables inmates to sue departments of corrections, as well as individuals employed thereby, for Constitutional civil rights violations, notwithstanding the traditional immunities afforded such state agencies (Fradella, 1998). In order for section 1983 to apply, two simple factors must be present: (1) the alleged actor must have been acting “under color of [state law],” (i.e., with the express or implied authority of the state or a state agency); (2) the actor must be alleged to have subjected or caused to be subjected another person “to the deprivation of” his or her constitutional rights (Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights, 1996; Collins, 2005, p. 2). For this reason, inmate civil rights litigation is also often referred to as Section 1983 litigation. The PLRA, in turn, applies to all federal lawsuits brought by incarcerated persons, including civil rights claims brought pursuant to section 1983 as described above (Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1996). Specifically, it is applicable to inmate lawsuits whether 3

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
Amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. XI, 1798).  A 
statutory vehicle, known as Section 1983, is necessary for a prisoner-plaintiff’s 
constitutional claims to proceed against such a government entity (Civil Action for 
Deprivation of Rights, 1996; Collins, 2005).  
Section 1983 was originally enacted in 1871 in response to growing concerns 
regarding domestic acts of terrorism at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan (Fradella, 1998). 
At its inception, section 1983 was intended to be used as a way for private citizens to 
meaningfully enforce their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal 
protection of law (Fradella, 1998).  Ironically, section 1983 went largely unused until the 
1960s when inmate litigation came to the fore (Fradella, 1998).  
In the context of prisoner litigation, section 1983 enables inmates to sue 
departments of corrections, as well as individuals employed thereby, for Constitutional 
civil rights violations, notwithstanding the traditional immunities afforded such state 
agencies (Fradella, 1998).  In order for section 1983 to apply, two simple factors must be 
present: (1) the alleged actor must have been acting “under color of [state law],” (i.e., 
with the express or implied authority of the state or a state agency); (2) the actor must be 
alleged to have subjected or caused to be subjected another person “to the deprivation of” 
his or her constitutional rights (Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights, 1996; Collins, 
2005, p. 2).  For this reason, inmate civil rights litigation is also often referred to as 
Section 1983 litigation.  
The PLRA, in turn, applies to all federal lawsuits brought by incarcerated persons, 
including civil rights claims brought pursuant to section 1983 as described above (Prison 
Litigation Reform Act, 1996).
Specifically, it is applicable to inmate lawsuits whether 

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