In recent years the number of inmates held in isolation in American prisons has increased dramatically. At the same serious abuses have occurred in these isolation units. These abuses, which include subjecting inmates to degrading, humiliating and unnecessary suffering, often do not cause physical injury. Even though constitutional rights are violated by these acts, federal courts have often failed to provide relief to victims of these abuses. The reason is that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) deprives federal courts of the ability to provide relief from degrading and even torturous behavior if there is not physical injury. This article calls for the repeal or reform of the physical injury requirement of the PLRA so that the ability of federal courts to provide meaningful remedies for violations of the United States Constitution can be restored.
Michael B. Mushlin, Unlocking the Courthouse Door: Removing the Barrier of the PLRA’s Physical Injury Requirement to Permit Meaningful Judicial Oversight of Abuses in Supermax Prisons and Isolation Units, 24 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 268 (2012).