This Comment argues that, based on the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA)’s purpose and legislative history, prisoners who fulfilled the statute’s payment obligations while incarcerated should be entitled to apply for traditional in forma pauperis (IFP) status under § 1915(a)(1) upon release. Part I traces the historical development of prisoners’ right of access to the courts and its ties to the IFP doctrine. It then examines the PLRA’s many amendments to the federal IFP statute. Part II explains the divergent readings that circuit courts currently apply to § 1915(b). After analyzing the statute’s plain language and legislative history, Part III concludes that Congress sought to impose the filing fee requirement on prisoners because they encounter fewer financial and logistical obstacles throughout the litigation process, a justification that cannot extend to released inmates. Finally, Part IV recommends that courts decide the continuing application of the PLRA on a case-by-case basis that first takes into account a released prisoner’s prior compliance with the payment formula, a solution that upholds both the prisoner’s constitutional right of access and the countervailing government interests.

Recommended Citation

Colarusso, Julia. “Out of Jail... But Still Not Free to Litigate - Using Congressional Intent to Interpret 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(b)'s Application to Released Prisoners.” American University Law Review 58, no. 6 (August 2009): 1533-1566.

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