The PLRA Handbook is a vital and invaluable resource for anyone who intends to bring a prisoners’ rights action in federal court, regardless of their experience level. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), which has been in effect for 26 years and is the focus of this book, offers enormous obstacles to successfully prosecuting any prisoner’s rights lawsuit. During the near quarter-century and more that this severe and unneeded law has been in effect, it has caused tremendous harm.

Plra - Prison Litigation Reform Act

Every lawyer who works in this field is required to deal with it. With the intent of derailing even the most deserving cases, the legislation constructs a convoluted maze laced with traps specifically designed to target inmates. Due to this Byzantine statute, which contains dozens of restrictions, any one of which might quickly derail a prisoner’s claim, has resulted in a vast body of difficult-to-understand legal literature. So far, district courts have mentioned the legislation 63,596 times, federal courts of appeals have quoted it 1,096 times, and law review authors have cited it 3,324 times.


According to the PLRA, if you have not exhausted the prison’s administrative appeals process (a complicated subject), you will be summarily dismissed from court, regardless of whether or not your petition is meritorious. The possibility of being thrown out of court exists even if your constitutional rights have been violated. Still, the degrading treatment to which you have been exposed has not resulted in physical injury.

This is true even if a similar claim brought by a non-prisoner is allowed to proceed. Furthermore, if you have filed three previous lawsuits that have been dismissed, even for technical grounds, the courthouse door will be closed to you for your incarceration, with only a few limited exceptions (a third complicated question). In such a situation, the PLRA prohibits filing a new lawsuit, regardless of the merits of the case, unless you are one of the rare prisoners who can afford the high filing price.

Plra - Prison Litigation Reform Act

Scores of prison cases are dismissed from the court system every year, regardless of whether the cases are legitimate, because the prisoner fails to comply with any one of the many technicalities of the statute. There is no other category of litigants subjected to such draconian treatment. Despite this, there is no other group of people who is more in need of legal protection than the LGBT community. When it comes to safeguarding their fundamental rights, those who are incarcerated rely on the courts more than any other group. Prisoners lack political influence, are primarily impoverished, and are drawn from communities experiencing economic difficulties.

In addition, the state maintains nearly complete control over convicts. Because of these factors, the reality is that Congress should pass legislation that is opposed to the PLRA rather than enact it. Despite the law’s pernicious character, however, it is possible to be repealed shortly, given the current political climate. The best we can hope for is that a knowledgeable guide will accompany inmates and their attorneys through the minefield that the PLRA has created. Thankfully, because of the publication of The PLRA Handbook: Law and Practice Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, written by John Boston, we now have this opportunity.

Plra - Prison Litigation Reform Act

No one understands the PLRA as well as John Boston; no one even comes close to his level of expertise. Besides possessing an extensive understanding of penal law, John Boston is also a superb analyst. His work has been recognized as authoritative by significant scholars and recognized by the courts as being of superior quality.

In addition, Mr. Boston is one of the nation’s leading jail litigators, having worked as a staff attorney and then as the Project Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aid Society during his illustrious career. He brings not just his intellectual genius to this endeavor but also his extensive experience as a practicing lawyer who has faced down the PLRA while representing hundreds of persons detained who have sought judicial redress for violations of their constitutional rights.

The details

Mr. Boston has written a book that, based on his extensive knowledge and remarkable expertise, presents a thorough path for avoiding dismissal for failing to comply with the Act. The book is broken into twelve chapters and has a total length of 576 pages.

Each chapter is devoted to a specific section of the PLRA, and it provides an overview of each of the numerous provisions of this complex statute, as well as specific information that is essential for any litigator regarding how the federal courts in each federal circuit have interpreted and applied that section of the PLRA. Mr. Boston gives a detailed yet readily understandable and straightforward examination of each of the various sections of the law in each chapter, as well as an overview of the case law that has been used to interpret the provision in the previous chapter.

Plra - Prison Litigation Reform Act

This provides a prison litigator who studies this useful book with critical knowledge on how to position the case in the best possible light in order to avoid the hazard created by the PLRA.

Chapter IV, “The Physical Injury Requirement,” is a good example of this strategy in action. With regard to the so-called “physical injury” provision of the law, Mr. Boston deftly unpacks a provision of the Personal Liability Reform Act that, in Mr. Boston’s memorable words, contains “the greatest concentration of poor drafting contained in the least amount of words in the entire United States Code.”

He then spends the next 50 pages carefully analyzing the provision, drawing on statutes and commentary dating back as far as the nineteenth century, in order to develop a coherent theory about how the statute should be interpreted so that lawsuits for harm caused by violations of constitutional rights are permitted without the need to prove physical injury in any way.

According to Mr. Boston’s reasoning, the provision has been understood differently in each federal circuit, and the statute has been interpreted differently in each of the numerous factual settings in which this problem has arisen as a result. This chapter provides advocates with a thorough understanding of how to present arguments to courts in order to avoid the pitfalls posed by the Act. a.

While the book does provide compelling arguments for addressing difficulties in ways other than the method proposed by Mr. Boston in this case, it also does so throughout the book when provisions of the PLRA have not yet been construed or when there are differences in the courts’ circuits. In this book, you will find this kind of high-level expert writing and analysis in each and every chapter, as well as on every page.

The PLRA Handbook provides litigators with the best possible protection in order to avoid the obstacles that the PLRA places in the path of the vindication of prisoners’ constitutional rights. They would be deprived of a critical piece of assistance if they did not have it. Having this book at your fingertips is not just a wonderful thing; it is very necessary. The Human Rights Defense Center is responsible for the publication of the book. Attorneys and institutions will be charged $224.99, while convicts will be charged $84.99.

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