Congress has estimated that the number of people who have been sexually assaulted in America's prisons over the past twenty years tops one million. Some inmates are sexually assaulted by guards, and some by other inmates, facilitated by guards. The problem is so rampant that Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. Though the State has a constitutional obligation to "provide humane conditions of confinement," sometimes it fails. To receive compensation for or relief from such harm, a prisoner must conform to the guidelines provided in the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), which requires an inmate to file a grievance for his injury with the very administration responsible for not providing humane conditions. Additionally, a prisoner who has just suffered the assault has a limited time in which to lodge his complaint, generally no more than fifteen days, and in nine states only between two and five days. A proper exhaustion requirement precludes an inmate from filing a lawsuit in federal court unless he has proceeded through each step of his prison's grievance procedure while meeting all procedural requirements, including deadlines. On the other hand, simple exhaustion, or exhaustion simpliciter, permits an inmate to file a lawsuit as long as the administrative grievance procedure is no longer available, provided that he has not intentionally circumvented the administrative process.
Karen M. Harkins Slocomb,
How the Court Got It Wrong in Woodford v. NGO By Saying No to Simple Administrative Exhaustion Under the PLRA,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol44/iss2/7