National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Impact of Prisoner Litigation Reform, 1992-2000 [United States] (ICPSR 20354) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

In 1996, the United States Congress enacted two policies to regulate the use of the legal system by state prisoners. They were the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The purpose of this research project was to examine whether the PLRA and the AEDPA had their intended effects of reducing the number of Section 1983 lawsuits and habeas corpus petitions, respectively, at both the national and circuit court levels. The researchers obtained data, from the Research and Statistics Division of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, on the number of civil rights suits and the number of habeas corpus petitions filed by state prisoners in district courts from April 1992 to December 2000. These data were organized into monthly increments. Dataset 1, Civil Rights Suits Filed, contains 105 cases, and Dataset 2, Habeas Corpus Petitions Filed, also contains 105 cases. The trends in civil rights suits filed (Dataset 1) and habeas corpus petitions filed (Dataset 2) were measured by the number of petitions filed per 10,000 state prisoners. Filing rates were measured at the level of district courts, grouped together by the circuit court that has jurisdiction over them.

Variables in Dataset 1, Civil Rights Suits Filed, include filing date and the number of civil rights suits filed per 10,000 state prisoners at the national level as well as for district courts within each of the 11 circuits and the District of Columbia. An intervention flag variable is also included. Variables in Dataset 2, Habeas Corpus Petitions Filed, include filing date and the number of habeas corpus petitions filed per 10,000 state prisoners at the national level, as well as for district courts within each of the 11 circuits and the District of Columbia. A pulse flag variable and two intervention flag variables are also included.

Access Notes

  • These data are freely available.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Civil Rights Suits Filed - Download All Files (1.4 MB)
DS2:  Habeas Corpus Petitions Filed - Download All Files (1.4 MB)

Study Description

Citation

Cheesman II, Fred L., Roger A. Hanson, and Brian J. Ostrom. IMPACT OF PRISONER LITIGATION REFORM, 1992-2000 [UNITED STATES]. ICPSR20354-v1. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts [producer], 2007. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-03-28. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR20354.v1

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2001-IJ-CX-0013)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   civil rights, convictions (law), evaluation, habeas corpus, judicial decisions, lawsuits, legislation, legislative impact, prison conditions, prison inmates, prisoners rights, Supreme Court decisions

Smallest Geographic Unit:   none

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1992-04--2000-12

Date of Collection:  

  • 2003-01

Unit of Observation:   civil rights suit, habeas corpus petition

Universe:   Dataset 1: All civil rights suits filed by prisoners in the United States from April 1992 to December 2000. Dataset 2: All habeas corpus petitions filed by prisoners in the United States from April 1992 to December 2000.

Data Types:   aggregate data

Data Collection Notes:

Users are encouraged to refer to the final report cited in the "Related Literature" section of this study for more detailed information regarding the study design, methodology, and sampling.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   In 1996, the United States Congress enacted two policies to regulate the use of the legal system by state prisoners. They were the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The PLRA dealt with lawsuits filed by state prisoners challenging the conditions of their confinement, which are commonly called Section 1983 cases. The AEDPA focused on applications for writs of habeas corpus filed by prisoners challenging the validity of their convictions and sentences, which commonly are called habeas corpus petitions. The purpose of this research project was to examine whether the PLRA and the AEDPA had their intended effects of reducing the number of Section 1983 lawsuits and habeas corpus petitions, respectively, at both the national and circuit court levels.

Study Design:  

The researchers obtained data, from the Research and Statistics Division of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts on the number of civil rights suits and the number of habeas corpus petitions filed by state prisoners in district courts from April 1992 to December 2000 (including those filed by inmates sentenced to death). These data were organized into monthly increments to capture the occurrence of both short-term and long-term changes in filing patterns and to provide a sufficient number of data points to conduct the analysis. The trends in civil rights suits filed (Dataset 1) and habeas corpus petitions filed (Dataset 2) were measured by the number of petitions filed per 10,000 state prisoners. Prison population size was used in calculating a filing rate because the number of prisoners was the pool from which potential filers arose. Filing rates were measured at the level of district courts grouped together by the circuit court that has jurisdiction over them. The District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals was included in the datasets but was excluded from the analysis due to the small number of petitions filed.

Dataset 1, Civil Rights Suits Filed, contains 105 cases and was constructed so that the researchers could utilize the technique of interrupted time series analysis to examine whether the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) had its intended effect of reducing the number of Section 1983 lawsuits filed. Dataset 2, Habeas Corpus Petitions Filed, contains 105 cases and was also constructed so that the researchers could conduct interrupted time series analyses to assess the impact of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) on the rate of filing of habeas corpus petitions at both the national and circuit level. Specifically, the researchers examined three models to see how closely they fit the monthly filing rates of habeas corpus petitions for district courts, organized by circuit and nationally:

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) model
  2. Delayed step model
  3. Pulse model

The BJS model is a step model beginning April 1996, the month of AEDPA's enactment. The delayed step model is also a step model but it begins in April 1997, one year after AEDPA's enactment. The pulse model suggests a change occurred in April 1997, one year after AEDPA's enactment, and lasted only one month.

Sample:   Filing rates were measured at the level of district courts grouped together by the circuit court that has jurisdiction over them. Consequently, Dataset 1 and Dataset 2 contain the number of civil rights suits filed monthly per 10,000 state prisoners and the number of habeas corpus petitions filed monthly per 10,000 state prisoners, respectively, for the 11 numbered circuit courts. The District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals was included in the datasets but was excluded from the analysis due to the small number of petitions filed. This level of analysis avoided the limitations of a strictly national examination, and averted the unmanageable problem of trying to see patterns among nearly 100 district courts.

Weight:   none

Mode of Data Collection:   record abstracts

Data Source:

Data were obtained from the Research and Statistics Division of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Aggregate statistics on prisoner litigation were downloaded from the Federal District-Court Civil Cases Web site.

Description of Variables:  

Variables in Dataset 1, Civil Rights Suits, include filing date and the number of civil rights suits filed per 10,000 state prisoners at the national level as well as for district courts within each of the 11 circuits and the District of Columbia. An intervention flag variable is also included, which designates whether the data are from the "Pre-PLRA" or "Post-PLRA" period.

Variables in Dataset 2, Habeas Corpus Petitions, include filing date and the number of habeas corpus petitions filed per 10,000 state prisoners at the national level, as well as for District Courts within each of the 11 circuits and the District of Columbia. A pulse flag variable and two intervention flag variables are also included. The pulse flag variable designates data as being from "Months before and after one year anniversary of AEDPA" or from the "One year anniversary of AEDPA, April 1997". The intervention flag variables designate whether the data are from the "Pre-AEDPA" or "Post-AEDPA" period and whether the data are from the "Pre-one-year-anniversary of AEDPA" or "Post-one-year-anniversary of AEDPA" period.

Response Rates:   Dataset 1: Not applicable. Dataset 2: Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   none

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

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