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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? tasked with defending such litigation (Belbot, 2004). As one criminologist has put it, historically, prisoners had been portrayed as “constitutional ‘outsiders’ replete with their ‘spoiled identities,’” and that “inmates had nary a voice in the legislative debate over the proposed legislation” and were “[p]ortrayed as recreational litigators, suing over bad haircuts and the like” (Robertson, 2001, p. 198). In the end, the Act was attached to a very large appropriations bill known as the Omnibus Consolidated Rescission and Appropriations Act of 1996, seemingly in the thinly-veiled hope that it would pass without considerable Congressional debate (Williamson, 2006, p. 10; Chen, 2004, p. 209). Indeed, the bill passed the House after only one (1) week of debate), and passed the Senate after only five (5) days of debate (Chen, 2004, p. 210). Incredibly, a Judiciary Committee Report regarding the PLRA was not even prepared, much less presented, in either house of Congress (Belbot, 2004). Though the discussion was brief, the PLRA was not without opposition. Opponents of the PLRA raised grave concerns regarding the act’s impact on the civil rights of incarcerated persons (Chen, 2004). They posited that the increase in inmate litigation might be symptomatic of “deteriorating prison conditions, rather than prisoners’ propensity for litigation” (Chen, 2004, p. 213). The opponents also pointed to the rising overall prison population as an explanation for the increase in litigation volume (Chen, 2004). Despite opposition to the PLRA, led by prominent Democratic Party senators Joseph Biden and Edward Kennedy, the bill was signed into law (as part of the aforementioned appropriations bill) by President Clinton just over two (2) months after its initial proposition (Williamson, 2006). As enacted, PLRA contains, essentially four (4) provisions designed to perform a 9

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
tasked with defending such litigation (Belbot, 2004). As one criminologist has put it, 
historically, prisoners had been portrayed as “constitutional ‘outsiders’ replete with their 
‘spoiled identities,’” and that “inmates had nary a voice in the legislative debate over the 
proposed legislation” and were “[p]ortrayed as recreational litigators, suing over bad 
haircuts and the like” (Robertson, 2001, p. 198).  In the end, the Act was attached to a 
very large appropriations bill known as the Omnibus Consolidated Rescission and 
Appropriations Act of 1996, seemingly in the thinly-veiled hope that it would pass 
without considerable Congressional debate (Williamson, 2006, p. 10; Chen, 2004, p. 
209).  Indeed, the bill passed the House after only one (1) week of debate), and passed the 
Senate after only five (5) days of debate (Chen, 2004, p. 210).  Incredibly, a Judiciary 
Committee Report regarding the PLRA was not even prepared, much less presented, in 
either house of Congress (Belbot, 2004).  Though the discussion was brief, the PLRA 
was not without opposition.
Opponents of the PLRA raised grave concerns regarding the act’s impact on the 
civil rights of incarcerated persons (Chen, 2004).  They posited that the increase in 
inmate litigation might be symptomatic of “deteriorating prison conditions, rather than 
prisoners’ propensity for litigation” (Chen, 2004, p. 213).  The opponents also pointed to 
the rising overall prison population as an explanation for the increase in litigation volume 
(Chen, 2004).  Despite opposition to the PLRA, led by prominent Democratic Party 
senators Joseph Biden and Edward Kennedy, the bill was signed into law (as part of the 
aforementioned appropriations bill) by President Clinton just over two (2) months after 
its initial proposition (Williamson, 2006).  
As enacted, PLRA contains, essentially four (4) provisions designed to perform a 
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