Whether the Prison Litigation Reform Act was well aimed or effective is a challenging question. Advertised as stemming a flood of trivial prisoners' lawsuits in the federal courts, the PLRA erected obstacles to serious as well as frivolous complaints – like claims of racial discrimination or sexual abuse by prison staff that leaves no physical injury. And much of the time saved by dismissing cases is spent interpreting the PLRA's perplexing procedural rules. More and more often, courts are leaving prisoners (and pretrial detainees) to the vagaries of cash-starved prison systems. The author brings her years as a prisoners' rights litigator and Pro Se Law Clerk to bear on the issue of whether, in these days of economic recession and mass incarceration, it is prison rather than prison litigation that is truly in need of reform.

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