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6 Pages Posted: 4 May 2012 Last revised: 5 May 2012

Giovanna Shay

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 1, 2012


The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) contains an administrative exhaustion provision that was interpreted by the Supreme Court in Woodford v. Ngo in 2006 to impose a procedural default component. This piece argues that we should take seriously Justice Breyer’s Woodford concurrence, in which he noted that administrative law doctrine contains well-established exceptions to exhaustion. Although this point might at first seem inconsistent with other Supreme Court cases interpreting the PLRA, this Article argues that Justice Breyer’s concurrence can be reconciled with those opinions. PLRA exhaustion invokes regular administrative law exhaustion doctrine so long as it is not inconsistent with the statute. More generally, the Article argues that we should take administrative law seriously in the corections context.

Keywords: Prison Litigation Reform Act, PLRA, exhaustion requirement, Woodford v. Ngo

Suggested Citation

Shay, Giovanna, Exhausted (April 1, 2012). Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 24, p. 287, 2012; Western New England University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-6. Available at SSRN:

Giovanna E. Shay (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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