Prison Litigation Reform Act
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1996, introduced to lower litigation incidences within court systems, continues to draw mixed reactions from the public and scholars. Some of the act’s aims included lightening the caseload for courts tackling inmate litigations, permitting correctional officers to solve problems before litigation, and reducing frivolous litigations. One element of the act concerned the filing of fees that required prisoners to pay court-filing fees fully. There could be no waiver for the price, and those lacking the whole amount could do so via monthly installments from their prison commissary accounts.
Another element of the act was the three strikes provision that barred prisoners from filing with the courts before paying court-filing fees up front following three strikes. LeClercq rightly reckons that a strike denotes the dismissal of a case by a judge for being malicious, frivolous, or lacking proper claims (55). An additional element, the physical injury requirement, stated that one could not file a lawsuit for emotional or mental injuries without first demonstrating bodily injury. Despite the reduced rights and protections, prisoners can still speak with their attorneys concerning their prison rights.
Perhaps the most compelling element of the act in reducing prisoner litigation was the exhaustion requirement. According to LeClercq, the portion demands exhaustion of a prisoner’s claims administratively before filing a lawsuit, failure to which dismissal likely occurs (62). The section requires prisoners to exhaust all the prison’s grievance procedures/ steps before venturing to the courts, lowering litigation cases considerably. However, failure to resolve prisoner grievances in-house could result in lawful litigation.
Duty of Correctional Officers to Protect Persons in their Custody
Correctional settings and facilities can often pose security challenges to inmates. Therefore, correctional officers must play their roles in protecting persons in their custody. One of their duties includes keeping order and enforcing rules in prisons. Farkas asserts that the officials resolve disputes between inmates, preventing escapes, assaults, and disturbances (1). For example, Joseph Valachi famously received personal protection for testifying against an organized crime unit whose members could even attempt to murder him in jail before his witnessing in 1964. He was a prisoner on death row.
Correctional officers supervise inmates’ activities to ensure overall safety. The officials monitor all inmates’ whereabouts and ensure adherence to prison rules. As highlighted by Farkas, they escort prisoners to their destinations, medical centers, courtrooms, and other institutions to keep them from harm by irate public members or other crime syndicates (1). Moreover, correctional officers search/ screen inmates for contraband items like weapons that can harm other prisoners. Thus, they periodically inspect the premises to ensure the continued safety of all prisoners.
Furthermore, the officers report on inmate conduct via filled daily logs and written reports that serve as deterrents for prisoners and keep them on their best behavior. Such measures essentially enhance security standards as good behavior may lead to parole or early release, which many seek. Importantly, prison officials assist in counseling and rehabilitating offenders. They talk to inmates and listen to their concerns/ grievances to help them navigate the challenges legally and safely. Prisoner rehabilitation helps to reform inmates and resolve ill feelings they may harbor towards others that may jeopardize security. Such reforms also go a long way in keeping them away from (dangerous) crimes in the future by imparting skills that enable them to earn honest wages. Thus, correctional officers play vital roles in protecting all persons in their custody without favor or prejudice.
Farkas, Mary Ann. Correctional Officers, Occupational Duties Of. 2019. EBSCOhost, Web.
LeClercq, Terri. “Rhetorical Evil and the Prison Litigation Reform Act.” Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, vol. 15, 2018, pp. 47–79. EBSCOhost, Web.