Congress should fix the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act, which made it much harder for inmates to challenge abusive treatment, editorializes the New York Times. The newpaper says the statute “has contributed significantly to the bad conditions – including the desperate overcrowding – that prevail today.” The law barred prisoners from suing prisons and jails unless they could show that they had suffered a physical injury. Officials have used this requirement to block lawsuits challenging bad conditions, including sexual abuse.
The Times urges House Crime Subcommittee Chairman Robert Scott (D-Va), to pushagain for his Prison Abuse Remedies Act, which would eliminated the physical injury requirement and make it harder for prison officials to get suits dismissed for failure to exhaust grievance procedures. It would exempt juveniles, who are especially vulnerable to abuse, from the law's restrictions. The Times says prisoner lawsuits are a way of reining in the worst abuses, which contribute to prison riots and other violence.