Yet another chilling story, this time from Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution, An Inmate Dies After Being Locked in a Scalding Shower for Two Hours. His Guards Won’t be Charged. The brutality and inhumane treatment is shocking, but what’s worse is the lack of accountability and proper oversight.
Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, Scholar, and Renowned Expert on Prisoners’ Rights, testified on February 7, 2017 before the Connecticut Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as part of their scheduled Briefing on Solitary Confinement.
Prof. Mushlin has been advocating for more humane conditions in state and federal prisons and jails, he has testified in the past, and written extensively on the topic. He has been consistently calling to ban the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails coupled with instituting an external and independent oversight to ensure the reform is sustained.
NPR North Carolina ran a story about prison oversight featuring Prof. Michael B. Mushlin of Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University who has been tirelessly advocating for meaningful prison oversight. The level and extent of brutality occurring behind the walls of many prisons is unimaginable, and the fact that many if not all of the incidents go unreported, un-investigated, and unpunished makes these situations even more dire.
- Brian Mann, Reports of Prison Guard Brutality in New York Draw a Harsh Spotlight, NPR North Carolina (Oct. 20, 2016).
- Michael B. Mushlin, What’s Going on in Our Prisons?, N.Y. Times (Jan. 4, 2016), at A19.
- Michael B. Mushlin, Written Testimony on Correctional Oversight of the NYS DOCCS, Hearing Before the State Assembly Standing Committee on Correction (Dec. 2, 2015).
- Michael B. Mushlin, “I Am Opposed to This Procedure”: How Kafka’s In the Penal Colony Illuminates the Current Debate About Solitary Confinement and Oversight of American Prisons,93 Or. L. Rev. 571 (2015).
Prof. Michael B. Mushlin, of Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, is a nationally renown expert on the prison system in the United States. He has authored a four volume treatise titled Rights of Prisoners, written numerous articles on the issues of prisoners’ rights and prison oversight, and testified in the NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Correction in support of a comprehensive prison reform in New York State.
Most recently he spoke with NowThis News about the state of affairs in US prisons in a clip titled In Some Prisons, Guard Break the Law Instead of Upholding, commenting on solitary confinement, brutality, physical abuse, contraband and corruption in U.S. prisons. To find out more about the life behind bars tune in on Thursdays at 10/9 central to A&E for a rel-life series titled 60 Days In.
POST WRITTEN BY: Michael B. Mushlin, Professor of Law at Pace Law School, Scholar, and Renowned Expert on Prisoners’ Rights.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) sets up roadblocks for prisoners in civil rights cases that are uniquely harsh including a requirement that prisoners must exhaust all available administrative remedies. This exhaustion requirement, which is not imposed on other civil rights litigants, often keeps litigants with meritorious claims out of court. Recently, in Ross v. Blake, No. 15-339, the Supreme Court took a Maryland case from the Fourth Circuit holding that the exhaustion requirement should be excused if the inmate makes a “reasonable mistake” about whether a particular administrative remedy is, in fact, available.
However, during oral argument last week the Court learned that this issue may not be presented by this case at all. This is because in papers filed with the Court before the case was argued it appeared that Maryland’s complicated and confusing administrative remedies were probably, in fact, unavailable to the inmate after all. Thus, there was no “reasonable mistake” after all. And no need to decide whether if there were such a mistake that would excuse the inmate from the obligation to exhaust.
Based on this new information it appears from the oral argument of the case that the Court will either remand the case or dismiss the case as improvidently granted for review. But even if the case is dismissed or remanded the case has value because the oral argument record available here reveals dramatically the Kafkaesque world of confusing remedies that prisoners must confront and overcome to achieve their day in court. If one needs proof of the lack of wisdom of the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement, and the need to repeal it, look no further.
- Brief Summary of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook.
- 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (2012) – Suits by Prisoners (Cornell LII).
- Amy Howe, Argument Preview: Filing Fees and Payments Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, SCOTUS Blog (Nov. 3, 2015).
- Know Your Rights: The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), ACLU (last updated Aug. 2011) .
- No Equal Justice: The Prison Litigation Reform Act in the United States, Human Rights Watch (June 16, 2009).