Legal Aid Testimony On Prison Rape Before Congressional Subcommittee

On July 8th, Lisa Freeman, an attorney with the Prisoners' Rights Project, testified before a Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representative's Judiciary Committee regarding the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission's recently issued Report and Standards. In particular, Lisa endorsed the Commission's call for reform of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), citing the injustice the PLRA has done in the lawsuit Amador v. Andrews. Lisa, along with Dori Lewis, and with the pro bono assistance of Debevoise and Plimpton, LLP, brought the lawsuit to challenge the ongoing and persistent sexual abuse of women prisoners by male staff in New York State prisons.

The PLRA requires that prisoners exhaust all available administrative remedies before they can bring a lawsuit. Lisa described how each of Amador plaintiffs complained of their sexual assault to the Inspector General's Sex Crime's Unit, as they were instructed to do in writing by the Department. Nonetheless, the District Court dismissed their claims for money damages and for injunctive relief because they had not filed a grievance. One plaintiff who was still in custody when the Court issued its decision had filed a grievance, but the District Court dismissed her claim for injunctive relief as well, finding she had not sufficiently connected her assault to specific supervisory officials or specific departmental policies. Lisa made clear that as illustrated by Amador, the PLRA "effectively immunizes prison administrators from meritorious lawsuits" and must be reformed

View the full testimony (PDF)