Determinants of Civil Rights Filings in Federal District Court by Jail and Prison Inmates

28 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2003

See all articles by Anne Morrison Piehl

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Margo Schlanger

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

This paper uses panel data estimation techniques to examine the relation between the number of federal court civil filings by inmates and jail and state prison populations (and, hence, the relation between jail and prison inmate filing rates) both before and after the effective date, in 1996, of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The research issue matters for several reasons. First, the amount of litigation by inmates is a crucial component of the regulatory regime governing jails and prisons and what factors drive filings, and by how much, deserves close attention and assessment. Second, the PLRA was a major congressional attempt to control and ration litigation; understanding its effects in finer gauge seems itself worthwhile. Third, we hope to show, methodologically, how research about litigation rates can be carried out sensitively, even if the litigation results from case filings by two separate populations. We make three major findings: (1) As expected, inmate filings vary positively with prison population. However, the relationship with jail population is less secure. (2) As the prison proportion of inmates in a particular state increases, so too does the number of filings. (3) The PLRA's passage has significantly lessened but not eliminated this prison proportion effect.

Keywords: jail, prison, litigation, inmates, corrections, civil rights, PLRA

JEL Classification: C23, C51, H77, K0, K41

Suggested Citation

Piehl, Anne Morrison and Schlanger, Margo, Determinants of Civil Rights Filings in Federal District Court by Jail and Prison Inmates (2003). Harvard Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 79; and KSG Working Paper No. RWP03-043. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=451341 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.451341

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics ( email )

New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States
(732) 932-7363 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Margo Schlanger (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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