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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? the inmate’s claims pertain to a specific incident, or to more general conditions of confinement (Porter v. Nussle, 2002). Importantly, however this type of prisoner litigation is to be distinguished from cases brought pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. §1997a. Originally enacted in 1980, CRIPA authorizes the United States Attorney General and his/her deputies to investigate conditions of confinement in federal, state, and local prisons and jails (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 1996; Williamson, 2006, p. 3). CRIPA does not, however, permit representation by the government of individuals or the pursuit of particular cases on behalf of inmates (Williamson, 2006, p. 3). Unlike the PLRA, which governs inmate- driven litigation, CRIPA is best understood as a mechanism for government monitoring of correctional institutions (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 1996; Williamson, 2006). CRIPA is, however, the original source of the exhaustion principle within the realm of inmate litigation (Belbot, 2004). In CRIPA, the exhaustion requirement was introduced to placate the National Association of Attorney’s General who originally opposed the Act as an unlawful interference in the states’ rights to operate their own prison systems (Belbot, 2004). In order to be considered adequate for CRIPA purposes, a department of corrections grievance procedure had to first be certified by the Department of Justice (Belbot, 2004). In evaluating such institutional grievance procedures during the certification process, the Department of Justice reviewers considered five (5) distinct factors: (1) whether there had been a role for employees and inmates alike in drafting the grievance procedure; (2) whether there were maximum time limits in the set for responses to grievances at each level within the procedure; (3) 4

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
the inmate’s claims pertain to a specific incident, or to more general conditions of 
confinement (Porter v. Nussle, 2002).  Importantly, however this type of prisoner 
litigation is to be distinguished from cases brought pursuant to the Civil Rights of 
Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. §1997a.  Originally enacted in 1980, 
CRIPA authorizes the United States Attorney General and his/her deputies to investigate 
conditions of confinement in federal, state, and local prisons and jails (Civil Rights of 
Institutionalized Persons Act, 1996; Williamson, 2006, p. 3).  CRIPA does not, however, 
permit representation by the government of individuals or the pursuit of particular cases 
on behalf of inmates (Williamson, 2006, p. 3).  Unlike the PLRA, which governs inmate-
driven litigation, CRIPA is best understood as a mechanism for government monitoring 
of correctional institutions (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 1996; 
Williamson, 2006).  
CRIPA is, however, the original source of the exhaustion principle within the 
realm of inmate litigation (Belbot, 2004).  In CRIPA, the exhaustion requirement was 
introduced to placate the National Association of Attorney’s General who originally 
opposed the Act as an unlawful interference in the states’ rights to operate their own 
prison systems (Belbot, 2004).   In order to be considered adequate for CRIPA purposes, 
a department of corrections grievance procedure had to first be certified by the 
Department of Justice (Belbot, 2004).  In evaluating such institutional grievance 
procedures during the certification process, the Department of Justice reviewers 
considered five (5) distinct factors: (1) whether there had been a role for employees and 
inmates alike in drafting the grievance procedure; (2) whether there were maximum time 
limits in the set for responses to grievances at each level within the procedure; (3) 

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