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Appealing to Justice$
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Kitty Calavita and Valerie Jenness

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284173

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284173.001.0001

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“Needles,” “Haystacks,” and “Dead Watchdogs”

“Needles,” “Haystacks,” and “Dead Watchdogs”

The Prison Litigation Reform Act and the Inmate Grievance System in California

(p.24) Chapter 2 “Needles,” “Haystacks,” and “Dead Watchdogs”
Appealing to Justice

Kitty Calavita

Valerie Jenness

University of California Press

This chapter provides an overview of the Prison Litigation Reform Act within the context of the skyrocketing prison population and advances in legal-rights consciousness. The authors show that the predicted decline in prisoner litigation subsequent to the PLRA never occurred; instead, there was a dramatic increase in prisoner grievance filing. The chapter describes how the grievance system in California works, describes the range of grievances filed, quotes from actual grievances, and presents the best available estimates of outcome numbers. It concludes by pointing out that despite the slim odds of prisoners winning a grievance, this system that was mandated by Congress to curtail legal mobilization by prisoners arguably animates their rights consciousness.

Keywords:   Prison Litigation Reform Act, rights consciousness, grievances, legal mobilization

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