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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? 2002, p. 1583). In fact, just prior to enactment of the PLRA, inmate litigation was thought to comprise at least 10% of all civil cases brought in federal court (Bennett & Del Carmen, 1997). While that percentage may see small, it meant that inmate litigation amounted to the single largest category of civil lawsuits brought in federal court (Ostrom, et al., 2003). Suffice it to say, the volume of prisoner litigation had been steadily increasing for 30 years (Fradella, 1998), was significantly burdening the Federal Courts (Williamson, 2006, p. 1), and formed the primary basis for proposing passage of the PLRA (Chen, 2004). Proponents of the PLRA argued that the vast majority of this prisoner litigation was frivolous and that, accordingly, the PLRA ought to be enacted to reduce the burden on the Courts (Williamson, 2006). In hindsight it appears that the number of frivolous inmate cases – in truth, representing just one-third of the total number of inmate cases in federal district courts- was exaggerated by supporters of the PLRA (Williamson, 2006, p. 9). It also seems that the parties analyzing the number of frivolous cases failed to realize that just four (4) percent of the inmate cases processed by Federal Courts actually resulted in a verdict favorable to the Plaintiff (i.e., the inmate) (Williamson, 2006 at p. 9). Nonetheless, the largely Republican Party advocates of the PLRA, led by Senator Bob Dole, argued that, by eliminating the costly burden represented by these frivolous inmate lawsuits, money and resources could be diverted to more meaningful criminal justice pursuits, such as crime prevention, policing, and the war on drugs (Williamson, 2006, p. 10). In proposing the bill, Senator Dole remarked that “prisons should be prisons, not law firms” (Kuzinski, 1998, p. 361). Proponents of the PLRA also argued that a reduction of frivolous inmate cases would relieve the burden on state agencies 8

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
2002, p. 1583).  In fact, just prior to enactment of the PLRA, inmate litigation was 
thought to comprise at least 10% of all civil cases brought in federal court (Bennett & Del 
Carmen, 1997).  While that percentage may see small, it meant that inmate litigation 
amounted to the single largest category of civil lawsuits brought in federal court (Ostrom, 
et al., 2003).  Suffice it to say, the volume of prisoner litigation had been steadily 
increasing for 30 years (Fradella, 1998), was significantly burdening the Federal Courts 
(Williamson, 2006, p. 1), and formed the primary basis for proposing passage of the 
PLRA (Chen, 2004).
Proponents of the PLRA argued that the vast majority of this prisoner litigation 
was frivolous and that, accordingly, the PLRA ought to be enacted to reduce the burden 
on the Courts (Williamson, 2006).  In hindsight it appears that the number of frivolous 
inmate cases – in truth, representing just one-third of the total number of inmate cases in 
federal district courts- was exaggerated by supporters of the PLRA (Williamson, 2006, p. 
9).  It also seems that the parties analyzing the number of frivolous cases failed to realize 
that just four (4) percent of the inmate cases processed by Federal Courts actually 
resulted in a verdict favorable to the Plaintiff (i.e., the inmate) (Williamson, 2006 at p. 9). 
Nonetheless, the largely Republican Party advocates of the PLRA, led by Senator 
Bob Dole, argued that, by eliminating the costly burden represented by these frivolous 
inmate lawsuits, money and resources could be diverted to more meaningful criminal 
justice pursuits, such as crime prevention, policing, and the war on drugs (Williamson, 
2006, p. 10).  In proposing the bill, Senator Dole remarked that “prisons should be 
prisons, not law firms” (Kuzinski, 1998, p. 361).  Proponents of the PLRA also argued 
that a reduction of frivolous inmate cases would relieve the burden on state agencies 
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