Twenty-five years ago today, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The “PLRA,” as it is often called, makes it much harder for incarcerated people to file and win federal civil rights lawsuits. For two-and-a-half decades, the legislation has created a double standard that limits incarcerated people’s access to the courts at all stages: it requires courts to dismiss civil rights cases from incarcerated people for minor technical reasons before even reaching the case merits, requires incarcerated people to pay filing fees that low-income people on the outside are exempt from, makes it hard to find representation by sharply capping attorney fees, creates high barriers to settlement, and weakens the ability of courts to order changes to prison and jail policies.
Fenster, Andrea and Margo Schlanger. "Slamming the Courthouse Door: 25 years of evidence for repealing the Prison Litigation Reform Act." Prison Policy Initiative (2021).