Skip navigation

Bojs Prisoner Petition Filed in Us District Courts 2000

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs

Revised 2/05/02, th

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Special Report
January 2002, NCJ 189430

Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District
Courts, 2000, with Trends 1980-2000
By John Scalia
BJS Statistician
The growth in the Nation’s prison
population from 1980 to 1996 was
accompanied by an increase in
prisoner litigation in the Federal courts.
The number of prisoner petitions filed
by Federal and State inmates in U.S.
district courts increased from 23,230
in 1980 to a high of 68,235 in 1996.
Since enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) in 1996 the
number of civil rights petitions filed in
the U.S. district courts has decreased.
Between 1995 (the year before implementation) and 2000, the number of
civil rights petitions decreased from
41,679 to 25,504. The filing rate –
number of civil rights petitions filed
per 1,000 inmates – fell from 37 to 19.
By contrast, since the enactment of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA), which was
enacted at the same time as the PLRA,
the number of habeas corpus petitions
filed, which include 28 USC § 2255
motions to vacate a sentence, has
increased. Between 1995 and 2000,
the total number of habeas corpus
petitions filed increased from 20,958 to
31,556. The filing rate increased from
19 to 23 per 1,000 inmates.
Petitions filed during 2000
During 2000 the approximate 1.4
million Federal and State prison
inmates filed 58,257 petitions in U.S.

Highlights
From 1995 Number
to 2000 the
number ofpetitions
civil rights
petitions
filed by prison inmates
of prisoner
filed
in
decreased U.S.
39%,district
as the number
habeas corpus petitions increased 50%
courts, of
1980-2000
70,000
60,000

Total

50,000

Civil rights

40,000
30,000
20,000
Habeas corpus

10,000
0
1980

1985

1990

$ During 2000, 58,257 prisoner
petitions were filed in U.S. district
courts — 80% by State prison inmates
and 20% by Federal inmates.
$ The majority of petitions filed during
2000 were habeas corpus petitions
(43%) or petitions by Federal inmates
challenging the constitutionality of an
imposed sentence (11%); 44% alleged
civil rights violations; and 2% were
mandamus actions.
$ The 1996 Prison Litigation Reform
Act appears to have resulted in a
decrease in the number of civil rights
petitions filed by State and Federal
prison inmates. They filed 41,679
petitions during 1995 compared to
25,504 during 2000.
district courts – or 42 petitions for each

1995

2000

$ Between 1995 and 2000 the rate
at which Federal and State prison
inmates filed civil rights petitions
decreased from 37 to 19 per 1,000
inmates.
$ The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act appears to have
resulted in an increase in the number
of habeas corpus petitions filed by
State prison inmates. State prison
inmates filed 50% more habeas
corpus petitions during 2000 (21,345)
than during 1995 (13,627).
$ Between 1995 and 2000 the rate
at which State prison inmates filed
habeas corpus petitions increased
from 13 to 17 per 1,000 inmates.
1,000 prisoners incarcerated (table 1;
figure 1). Prior to 1997 the number of
civil rights petitions filed annually was
greater than the number of habeas
corpus petitions. Beginning in 1997

Total number of prisoner
petitions filed per 1,000 inmates

Table 1. Prisoner petitions filed in U.S. district court by
Federal and State inmates, 1980-2000
Jurisdiction and type of petition
Federal
State
Vacate
Habeas Manda- Civil
Habeas MandaTotal sentence corpus mus
rights
Total corpus mus
3,661 1,322
1,413
323
603 19,569 7,029
145
4,053 1,248
1,629
342
834 23,602 7,786
177
4,328 1,186
1,927
381
834 24,947 8,036
172
4,354 1,311
1,914
339
790 26,411 8,523
202
4,526 1,427
1,905
372
822 26,567 8,335
198

Year
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984

Total
23,230
27,655
29,275
30,765
31,093

1985
1986
1987
1988
1989

33,452
33,758
37,279
38,825
41,472

6,262
4,432
4,507
5,130
5,577

1,527
1,556
1,664
2,071
2,526

3,405
1,679
1,808
1,867
1,818

373
427
313
330
315

957
770
722
862
918

1990
1991
1992
1993
1994

42,623
42,452
48,417
53,436
57,928

6,611
6,817
6,997
8,456
7,700

2,970
3,328
3,983
5,379
4,628

1,967
2,112
1,507
1,467
1,441

525
378
597
695
491

1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000

63,634
68,235
62,966
54,715
56,603
58,257

8,951 5,988
13,069 9,729
14,952 11,675
9,937 6,287
10,859 5,752
11,880 6,341

1,343
1,703
1,902
2,321
3,590
3,870

510
418
401
346
555
628

200
Civil
rights
12,395
15,639
16,739
17,686
18,034

Eighty percent of prisoner petitions
were filed by State prison inmates
(table 1). More than half (53%) of the
petitions filed by State inmates during
2000 alleged civil rights violations;
46% were habeas corpus petitions;
and 1% mandamus actions. Overall,
38 prisoner petitions were filed in U.S.
district courts per 1,000 State prison
inmates (figure 1).
By contrast to prior years, during 2000
the rate at which State inmates filed
habeas corpus petitions (17 per 1,000
inmates) was closer to the rate at
which they filed civil rights petitions (20
per 1,000). Before 1996 State inmates
filed civil rights petitions at more than
twice the rate at which they filed
habeas corpus petitions.
During 2000 inmates incarcerated in
the South filed almost half of all State
prisoner petitions (table 2). Inmates
incarcerated in southern prisons filed
53% of all petitions alleging civil rights
violations and 42% of all habeas
corpus petitions. Inmates incarcerated

80
40

Total
State

0
1980

180
215
276
270
311

18,490
20,071
22,972
23,558
25,039

1,149
999
910
915
1,140

36,012
35,635
41,420
44,980
50,228

10,817
10,325
11,296
11,574
11,908

352
267
479
388
395

24,843
25,043
29,645
33,018
37,925

200

1,110
1,219
974
983
962
1,041

54,593
55,166
48,011
44,777
45,738
46,371

13,627
14,726
19,956
18,838
20,493
21,345

397
444
397
461
513
563

40,569
39,996
27,658
25,478
24,732
24,463

80

in the West filed 23% of all petitions;
those incarcerated in the Midwest,
15%; and in the Northeast, 14%.

Federal

120

27,190 8,520
29,326 9,040
32,772 9,524
33,695 9,867
35,895 10,545

Note: Detail does not add to total, which includes local jurisdiction cases from outlying territories.
Data source: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Report of the Proceedings of the Judicial
Conference of the United States, annual (table C-2).

Petitions by State inmates

160

1985

1990

1995

2000

Civil rights petitions
filed per 1,000 inmates

160
120

40
Federal
0
1980
1985

Total
State
1990

1995

2000

Habeas corpus petitions filed
per 1,000 inmates
200
160
120

Southern States account for about 45%
Federal
80
of the Nation’s State prison population.
Inmates incarcerated in southern
40
Total
prisons did not file petitions at a
State
0
substantially greater rate (number per
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
1,000 inmates) than those incarcerated
Note:
Federal
habeas
corpus
includes
in the Northeast or West. In these
 2255 motions to vacate a sentence.
three regions about 40 petitions were
filed per 1,000 prisoners. Inmates
Figure 1
incarcerated in the Midwest filed
petitions at a lower rate (29 petitions
Petitions by Federal inmates
per 1,000 prisoners) than those in the
other regions.
Twenty percent of prisoner petitions
were filed by Federal prison inmates.
Inmates incarcerated in New Mexico
The majority of petitions filed by
(77 per 1,000 inmates), Arkansas (65), Federal inmates were either habeas
Virginia (68), Pennsylvania (55),
corpus petitions (33%) or motions filed
Indiana (55), West Virginia (51), and
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 seeking
Alabama (51) filed petitions at the
to vacate the sentence imposed
greatest rates (figure 2). By contrast,
(53%); about 9% alleged civil rights
inmates incarcerated in Alaska (6 per
violations; and 5% were mandamus
1,000), Utah (6), North Dakota (8),
actions (table 1).
Rhode Island (10), Hawaii (12),
Connecticut (19), and Ohio (19) filed
Overall, 82 prisoner petitions were filed
petitions at the lowest rates.
in U.S. district courts for every 1,000
Federal prison inmates; 44 petitions

2 Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000, with Trends 1980-2000

Revised 2/05/02, th

seeking to vacate the sentence; 27
habeas corpus; 7 civil rights; and 4
mandamus (figure 1). The higher
filing rate for Federal prison
inmates compared to State inmates
generally reflects the original jurisdiction that Federal courts have
over matters dealing with Federal
offenders.
Legislative initiatives to reduce
prisoner litigation

Table 2. Prisoner petitions filed in U.S. district court by Federal and State inmates,
by type of petition and State or jurisdiction, 2000
Region and
jurisdiction
U.S. total
Federal
State

6,341
--

15
259

3,855
21,086

628
563

6,672
349
66
228
108
792
3,013
2,032
32
52

-----------

22
0
**
**

0
0
22
**

3,087
121
27
164
24
258
1,406
1,057
16
14

41
2
0
9
0
2
20
7
1
0

3,522
226
39
55
84
532
1,587
946
15
38

174,825
18,355
1,679
10,722
2,257
29,784
70,198
36,847
3,286
1,697

6,805
1,146
1,103
335
296
1,158
203
855
118
9
880
119
583

--------------

54
7
10
**
0
**
**
4
3
c
30
0
**

3,362
368
602
97
108
685
126
401
46
7
540
47
335

68
14
5
8
0
4
3
14
0
0
13
5
2

3,321
757
486
230
188
469
74
436
69
2
297
67
246

237,016
45,281
20,125
7,955
8,344
47,718
6,238
27,323
3,895
1,076
45,833
2,616
20,612

South
22,239
Alabama
1,343
Arkansas
779
Delaware
298
District of Columbia
281
Florida
2,734
Georgia
1,650
Kentucky
557
Louisiana
1,461
Maryland
714
Mississippi
978
North Carolina
681
Oklahoma
1,008
South Carolina
891
Tennessee
1,009
Texas
5,613
Virginia
2,045
West Virginia
197

-------------------

149
4
5
2
**
11
1
4
2
1
2
18
24
2
16
52
5
**

8,883
419
145
84
91
1,277
507
225
581
251
297
261
589
278
311
2,782
724
61

347
9
101
1
5
76
12
6
4
38
4
0
7
27
4
45
3
5

12,860
911
528
211
185
1,370
1,130
322
874
424
675
402
388
584
678
2,734
1,313
131

552,225
26,255
11,915
6,921
7,456
71,319
44,232
14,919
35,047
23,538
20,241
31,266
23,181
21,778
22,166
157,997
30,168
3,856

10,667
23
979
6,893
568
58
123
73
477
409
410
82
539
33

---------------

34
**
11
13
0
**
1
1
8
0
0
0
0


5,759
13
419
4,017
261
26
36
34
185
321
155
34
243
15

101
0
16
27
1
0
0
1
7
0
44
2
3
0

4,773
10
533
2,836
306
32
86
37
277
88
211
46
293
18

272,419
4,173
26,510
163,001
16,833
5,053
5,526
3,105
10,012
5,342
10,630
5,630
14,915
1,680

Northeast
Connecticut
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Vermont

However, after enactment of
CRIPA the number of civil rights
petitions filed in the Federal courts
by State inmates continued to
increase through the 1980's and
the 1990's – increasing more than
threefold from 12,395 during 1980
to a high of 40,569 during 1995
(table 1). The increase was
primarily attributable to the
increase in the State prison population. Between 1980 and 1995, the
rate at which State inmates filed
civil rights petitions was stable,
West
averaging 40 petitions per 1,000
Alaska
Arizona
inmates (figure 1). The State
California
prison population, by contrast,
Colorado
increased more than threefold from
Hawaii
305,458 during 1980 to 1,025,624
Idaho
Montana
during 1995 (table 3).

• The Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA) sought to reduce the
number of petitions filed by inmates
claiming civil rights violations. As
part of the PLRA, inmates (1) are

Civil
2000 prison
rights
population*
25,505 1,381,901

11,880
46,371

In 1980 the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980
(CRIPA) was enacted to reduce the
number of civil rights petitions filed Midwest
in the Federal courts. As part of
Illinois
Indiana
this act, State prison inmates were
Iowa
required to exhaust State-level
Kansas
administrative remedies before
Michigan
Minnesota
filing their petitions in the Federal
Missouri
courts (42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)). Thus
Nebraska
Congress sought to reserve the
North Dakota
Ohio
Federal courts for more serious
South Dakota
civil rights violations or other signifiWisconsin
cant constitutional issues.

During 1996, two legislative initiatives were enacted that sought to
further limit prisoners’ ability to file
petitions in the Federal courts:

Type of petition
Vacate
Habeas corpus
Total sentence Death penalty Other
Mandamus
58,257
6,341
274
24,945
1,192

Nevada
New Mexico
Oregon
Utah
Washington
Wyoming

1,041
145,416
24,463 1,236,485

Note: Total includes local jurisdiction cases arising in the outlying territories. Detail for States
does not include petitions by Federal inmates or the Federal prison population.
--No Federal jurisdiction.
**Jurisdiction without a death penalty during 1999.
Jurisdiction had no prisoners under a sentence of death during 1999.
*Source: Prisoners in 2000, BJS Bulletin, August 2001, NCJ 188207.
Data source: Federal Judicial Center, Integrated Database (ICPSR 8429), 2000.

Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000 with Trends 1980-2000 3

Prisoner petitions filed in U.S. district courts by State inmates, by State of jurisdiction, 2000

Petitions per 1,000 inmates

Note: Alaska (5.5 petitions per
1,000 inmates) and Hawaii
(11.5) are not shown.

Fewer than 20
20 to 34
35 to 49
50 or more

Figure 2

required to exhaust all administrative
remedies before filing a case in
Federal court; (2) filing petitions in
forma pauperis are required to pay
applicable filing fees and court costs
from their existing assets or any funds
available through correctional trust
fund accounts; and (3) are prohibited
from filing in forma pauperis if they
have had prior petitions dismissed as
being frivolous or malicious.
Table 3. Federal and State prison
populations, 1980-2000
Year
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984

Total
Federal
329,821
24,363
369,930
28,133
413,806
29,673
436,855
31,926
462,002
34,263

State
305,458
341,797
384,133
404,929
427,739

1985
1986
1987
1988
1989

502,507
544,972
585,084
627,600
712,364

40,223
44,408
48,300
49,928
59,171

462,284
500,564
536,784
577,672
653,193

1990
1991
1992
1993
1994

773,919
825,559
882,500
969,301
1,054,702

65,526
71,608
80,259
89,587
95,034

708,393
753,951
802,241
879,714
959,668

1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000

1,125,874
1,181,919
1,240,659
1,299,096
1,363,701
1,381,892

100,250
105,544
112,973
123,041
135,246
145,416

1,025,624
1,076,375
1,127,686
1,176,055
1,228,455
1,236,476

Note: Counts represent total jurisdiction
counts for Federal and State prisons.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National
Prison Statistics data series, annual.

• The Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA) addresses
habeas corpus petitions in several
ways: (1) It requires inmates to exhaust
direct appeals at the State level prior to
filing a petition in Federal court. (2) It
establishes a 1-year statute of limitations whereby inmates have 1 year
from the time their conviction becomes
final – after all direct appeals of the
conviction and/or sentence have been
exhausted – to file a habeas corpus
petition in Federal court. (3) It requires
that a panel of the applicable Federal
court of appeals approve successive
petitions being filed in district court.
However, the PLRA and the AEDPA
appear to have had differential impacts
on filing rates and, accordingly, the
number of petitions filed. After enactment of the PLRA both the rate at
which State and Federal prison
inmates filed civil rights petitions and
the number of civil rights petitions filed
decreased dramatically.
After enactment of the AEDPA,
by contrast, both the filing rate and
the number of habeas corpus petitions
filed by State inmates increased.
For Federal inmates, there was no
measurable impact on the filing rate
of habeas corpus petitions attributable
to the enactment of AEDPA. The

4 Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000, with Trends 1980-2000

increase in the number of habeas
corpus petitions filed by Federal
inmates (§ 2241 and § 2255 motions
combined) appears to be solely a
consequence of the increasing prison
population.
Civil rights petitions. Almost immediately following enactment of the PLRA,
the number of civil rights petitions filed
by State inmates substantially declined
– decreasing from an average of 3,020
petitions filed per month during the 55
months prior to enactment to an
average of 2,227 petitions following
enactment (through September 2000)
(figure 3). The filing rate decreased
from an average of 3.2 petitions filed
per 1,000 inmates per month prior to
enactment to 1.9.
Despite the decrease in the filing rate,
the decrease in civil rights petitions
filed was offset by an increased State
prison population. Since enactment of
the PLRA, the State prison population
increased by approximately 160,000
inmates (table 3).
The PLRA similarly impacted filings by
Federal inmates. Following enactment
of the PLRA the number of civil rights
petitions decreased from an average
of 88 per month prior to enactment to
an average of 84 per month following

Revised 2/05/02, th

Types of prisoner petitions
This report addresses three types of
suits prison inmates are able to file in
the Federal courts to challenge the
constitutionality of their imprisonment
(habeas corpus), seek redress of civil
rights violations by government
officials (civil rights), or to compel a
government official to perform a duty
owed (mandamus).
Habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. §§ 2241
and 2254-2255). The basic principle
of the writ of habeas corpus is that the
government is accountable to the
courts for a person’s imprisonment.
If the government cannot show that
the person’s imprisonment conforms
with the fundamental requirements of
law, the person is entitled to immediate release. A previous BJS report
indicated that “ineffective assistance
of counsel” was the most frequently
cited (25%) reason for habeas corpus
petitions by State inmates. Other
commonly cited reasons include
errors by the trial courts (15%), due
process (14%), and self-incrimination
(12%) (Federal Habeas Corpus
Review, BJS Discussion Paper,
NCJ 155504, September 1995).
For Federal inmates habeas corpus
petitions take two statutorily distinguished forms: (1) traditional habeas
corpus petitions that generally
challenge the constitutionality of
enactment (not shown in a table).
The filing rate decreased from an
average of 0.9 per 1,000 inmates per
month to 0.7.

imprisonment (28 U.S.C. § 2241) and
(2) motions to vacate a sentence
imposed (28 U.S.C. § 2255). While
§ 2255 motions are similar in principle
to traditional habeas corpus petitions,
in 1948 Congress distinguished the
two to address practical difficulties
that had arisen in administering the
habeas corpus jurisdiction of the
Federal courts. Pursuant to § 2255,
the district court where the inmate
was originally sentenced retains jurisdiction over challenges of the
sentence. In this report, unless
specifically noted, habeas corpus
includes both § 2241 habeas corpus
motions and § 2255 motions to vacate
a sentence.
Civil rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983). The
foundation for these petitions originates in the 14th amendment of the
U.S. Constitution. The 14th amendment prohibits the States from
“depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty,
or property without due process of
law.” The Civil Rights Act of 1871, as
codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983, provides
the mechanism for persons to seek
relief from constitutional deprivations.
While the Civil Rights Act originally
addressed only violations by State
officials, in 1971 the Supreme Court
extended its jurisdiction to include
violations by Federal officials (Bivens
v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal
average of 1,042 petitions were filed
compared to an average of 1,637
petitions filed following enactment
(through September 2000) (figure 4).

The AEDPA appears, however, to have
had a delayed impact on the rate in
which State inmates file habeas corpus
petitions in U.S. district courts. During
the first 11 months following enactment
the filing rate did not change substantially. However, during April 1997,
which marked the 1-year anniversary
Habeas corpus petitions. By contrast
of enactment, the filing rate more than
to the PLRA, the AEDPA appears to
doubled – increasing from 1.1 per
have resulted in an increase in the
1,000 inmates per month to 3.4 –
number of habeas corpus petitions
resulting in an additional 2,600 habeas
filed in U.S. district courts. During the
corpus petitions being filed. Following
55 months prior to enactment an

The decrease in civil rights petitions by
Federal inmates was also offset by an
increased prison population. Since
enactment, the Federal prison population increased by approximately 40,000
(table 3).

Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971)). A previous BJS report
indicated that physical security (21%),
inadequate medical treatment (17%),
and due process (13%) were the most
frequently cited issues in civil rights
petitions filed by State inmates
(Challenging the Conditions of
Prisons and Jails, BJS Discussion
Paper, NCJ 151652, February 1995).
Mandamus (28 U.S.C. § 1361). The
writ of mandamus – like habeas
corpus – is an extraordinary remedy
based in common law that is used
when the plaintiff had no other
adequate means to attain the desired
relief. Mandamus petitions are filed
when the inmate seeks to compel a
government official to perform a duty
owed to the inmate. The Federal
courts have held, however, that the
mandamus writ can only be used
to compel a ministerial or nondiscretionary duty of the government (Marquez-Ramos v. Reno, 69
F.3d 477 (1995)). Compared to other
types of petitions, mandamus
petitions are infrequent, varied in
nature, and typically specific to
individual circumstances.
For more detailed descriptions, see
Prisoner Petitions in the Federal
Courts, 1980-96, BJS, NCJ 164615,
October 1997.
this spike, the filing rate decreased
substantially – to 1.4 per 1,000 inmates
per month – but remained higher than
that before April 1997.
In contrast to petitions by State
inmates, the AEDPA does not appear
to have had any statistically significant
impact on the filing rate of habeas
corpus petitions (including § 2255
petitions to vacate a sentence) by
Federal inmates.* The increase in the
number of these petitions appears to
be solely related to the increase in the
size of the Federal prison population.
*On pages 6 and 7 see the discussion of
methods for estimating the impact of this
legislative change.

Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000 with Trends 1980-2000 5

Revised 2/05/02, th

Number of civil rights petitions
filed by State prisoners, by month
4,500
Estimated filings without the
4,000

Number of habeas corpus petitions
filed by State prisoners, by month
4,000

Prison Litigation Reform Act

3,500

3,500

3,000

3,000

2,500

2,500

Actual filings

2,000
2,000
1,500

Actual filings

1,000

1,000

500

500
0
October 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
(Sept.)
Figure 3

1,500
Estimated filings
without the
Antiterrorism and
Effective Death
Penalty Act

0
October 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
(Sept.)
Figure 4

Estimates of the number of prisoner
petitions that would have been filed
Assessing the impact of the PLRA and
absent the change in law were derived
AEDPA on the number of prisoner
by applying the parameters estimated
As part of the time series analysis, data
petitions filed requires more extensive
from the ARIMA model but excluding
analysis than calculating the difference describing the number of prisoner
the PLRAt or AEDPAt parameter,
petitions filed in U.S. district courts
between the number of petitions filed
depending upon the model, from the
were aggregated into monthly counts
prior to enactment and at some time
equation. For example, the change in
following enactment. Other changes – and plotted over time – both before and the number of prisoner petitions attribsuch as increases in the prison popula- after enactment of the PLRA and
utable to the change in law was
tion and changes in prison administra- AEDPA. In the context of ARIMA,
estimated as:
these
two
acts
are
considered
intervention and conditions – may also impact
tions,
or
“shocks,”
that
cause
a
change
the rate at which inmates file petitions
N
N ^
Pt
Pt
in the number of prisoner petitions
−  y t 1,000
 =t=1
 Y t 1,000
and the number of petitions filed.
t=1
filed. In addition to the legislative
where:
While changes in prison administration change, the size of the prison populaand conditions are difficult to ascertain, tion was also incorporated into the
model derived. Monthly estimates of
 is change in the number of petitions
incorporating changes in the prison
filed during observation period
population is a straightforward process. the prison population were derived by
apportioning the change in the yearN is the number of months in the
During the period following enactment
end
prison
population
in
equal
increobservation period
of the PLRA and AEDPA, the State
ments
over
the
12
calendar
months.
Yt is the actual number of petitions filed
prison population increased from
per 1,000 inmates each month during
approximately 1.1 million to 1.2 million; (For 2000, estimates were derived
using the June 30 population.)
the observation period
the Federal prison population
t is the estimated number of petitions
increased from approximately
The ARIMA models derived suggest
that would have been filed per 1,000
105,000 to 145,000.
that the PLRA and AEDPA had a
inmates absent the legislative change
statistically
significant
impact
(p
<
0.05)
P
t is the prison population.
Estimates of the impact of the Prison
on
the
number
of
prisoner
petitions,
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and the
civil rights and habeas corpus petitions Estimates of the number of prisoner
Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA) on the number of respectively, filed in U.S. district courts petitions that would have been filed
prisoner petitions filed can be derived
by State prison inmates and on the
absent an increase in the prison
using ARIMA models. ARIMA models
number of civil rights petitions filed by
population were calculated as the
are derived empirically from available
Federal prison inmates (tables 4-7).
product of the actual filing rate and the
data. These time-series models test
The parameter estimate describing the
for changes in the underlying process
effect of the AEDPA on habeas corpus
due to some intervention such as a
petitions filed by Federal inmates was
policy change, new legislation, or a
not statistically significant (table 7).
court decision by extrapolating from the
past to the future. (See Richard
Measuring the impact of legislation

McCleary and Richard A. Hay, Jr.,
Applied Time Series Analysis for the
Social Sciences, 1980.)

6 Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000, with Trends 1980-2000

Revised 2/05/02, th

estimate of the May 1996 prisoner
population. For example, the change
in the number of prisoner petitions
attributable to the increase in the State
prison population was estimated as:
N

N

1,097,755
Pt
 =t=1
−  Y t 1,000
 Y t 1,000
t=1

where:

 is change in the number of petitions
filed during observation period
N is the number of months in the
observation period
Yt is the actual number of petitions filed
per 1,000 inmates per month during
the observation period
Pt is the prison population.
Civil rights petitions. Estimates
derived from time-series models
suggest that the PLRA resulted in
approximately 3.4 fewer civil rights
petitions filed per month for every
3,000 State prison inmates ( = -1.13,
p < 0.05) (table 4). Between April 1996
and September 2000 an estimated
73,000 fewer petitions were filed in
U.S. district courts by State prison
inmates than would have been filed if
the filing rate not changed following
implementation of the PLRA (figure 3).
During the Federal fiscal year 2000 an
estimated 19,000 fewer civil rights
petitions were filed by State inmates.
However, because of the increase in
the State prison populations more
inmates were present to potentially file
civil rights complaints. Accordingly, the
approximate 160,000 inmate increase
in the State prison population following
enactment of the PLRA resulted in an
estimated 7,500 additional civil rights
petitions filed following enactment (not
shown in a table).
Similarly, estimates suggest that the
PLRA resulted in approximately
1 fewer civil rights petitions filed per
month for every 4,000 Federal prison
inmates ( = -0.25, p < 0.05) (table 6).
Between April 1996 and September
2000 an estimated 1,700 fewer civil
rights petitions were filed in U.S. district
courts by Federal prison inmates.
During the Federal fiscal year 2000 an

Table 4. ARIMA parameter estimates:
Civil rights petitions filed in U.S.
district courts by State prison
inmates, October 1, 1991, through
September 30, 2000

Table 5. ARIMA parameter estimates:
Habeas corpus petitions filed in U.S.
district courts by State prison
inmates, October 1, 1991, through
September 30, 2000

yt = µ + PLRAt + (Yt - Yt-1)
Standard
Parameter Estimate error
t-value
µ
3.08
0.08
33.28*
-1.13
0.11
-9.89*
PLRAt

0.60
0.07
8.06*

yt = µ + AEDPAt +
Standard
Parameter Estimate error
µ
1.10
0.05
0.29
0.06
AEDPAt

0.32
0.09

Note: Yt is the number of petitions filed per
1,000 inmates.
*Parameter significant at p < 0.05.
Source: Federal Judicial Center, Integrated
Database (ICPSR 8429), 2000.

Note: Yt is the number of petitions filed per
1,000 inmates.
*Parameter significant at p < 0.05.
Source: Federal Judicial Center, Integrated
Database (ICPSR 8429), 2000.

estimated 400 fewer civil rights
petitions were filed.
However the increase in the Federal
prison population contributed to an
increase in civil right petitions by
Federal inmates. The approximate
70,000 inmate increase in the Federal
prison population resulted in an
estimated 600 additional civil rights
petitions filed following enactment (not
shown in a table).
Habeas corpus petitions. Estimates
derived from time-series models
suggest that the AEDPA resulted in
approximately 1 additional habeas
corpus filing per month for every 3,400
State prison inmates ( = 0.29,
p < 0.05) (table 5). Additionally, the
increase in the number of habeas
corpus petitions resulting from the
increased filing rate was supplemented
by an increase attributable to the
increase in the State prison population.
Table 6. ARIMA parameter estimates:
Civil rights petitions filed in U.S.
district courts by Federal prison
inmates, October 1, 1991, through
September 30, 2000
yt = µ + PLRAt + (Yt - Yt-1)
Standard
Parameter Estimate error
t-value
µ
0.92
0.03
29.30*
-0.25
0.04
-5.56*
PLRAt

0.37
0.09
4.06*
Note: Yt is the number of petitions filed per
1,000 inmates.
*Parameter significant at p < 0.05.
Source: Federal Judicial Center, Integrated
Database (ICPSR 8429), 2000.

(Yt - Yt-1)
t-value
24.15*
4.43*
3.45*

Between April 1996 and September
2000 an estimated 18,000 additional
habeas corpus petitions were filed in
U.S. district courts by State prison
inmates as a result of the enactment of
the AEDPA (figure 4). During the
Federal fiscal year 2000 an estimated
5,800 additional habeas corpus
petitions had been filed. The approximate 160,000 inmate increase in the
State prison population resulted in an
estimated 5,900 additional petitions
filed following enactment (not shown in
a table).
While the AEDPA does not appear to
have had an impact on habeas corpus
petitions filed by Federal inmates
( = 0.78, p = 0.37) (table 7), the
approximate 40,000 inmate increase in
the Federal prison population resulted
in an estimated 6,000 additional
habeas corpus petitions filed in U.S.
district courts (not shown in a table).

Table 7. ARIMA parameter estimates:
Habeas corpus petitions and § 2255
motions to vacate a sentence filed in
U.S. district courts by Federal prison
inmates, October 1, 1991, through
September 30, 2000
yt = µ + AEDPAt +
Standard
Parameter Estimate error
µ
6.24
0.62
0.78
0.88
AEDPAt

0.28
0.09

(Yt - Yt-1)
t-value
10.01*
0.89
2.96*

Note: Yt is the number of petitions filed per
1,000 inmates.
*Parameter significant at p < 0.05.
Source: Federal Judicial Center, Integrated
Database (ICPSR 8429), 2000.

Prisoner Petitions Filed in U.S. District Courts, 2000 with Trends 1980-2000 7

Methodology
Data sources
The primary source of data for tables
presented in this report is the Federal
Judicial Center Integrated Database.
The Integrated Database is composed
of the criminal, civil, and appellate data
files maintained by the Administrative
Office of the U.S. Courts. These data
are archived at the National Archive of
Criminal Justice Data by the Federal
Judicial Center as Study Number
ICPSR 8429. Statistics describing the
number of Federal and State prison
inmates were obtained from the
Bureau of Justice Statistics National
Prison Statistics data series.

This report and others from the
Bureau of Justice Statistics are
available through the Internet 
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/

The Bureau of Justice Statistics
is the statistical agency of the
U.S. Department of Justice.
Lawrence A. Greenfeld is
acting director.
BJS Special Reports address a
specific topic in depth from one or
more datasets that cover many
topics.
John Scalia wrote this report.
Keonna Feaster provided statistical
review and verification. John
Golmalt of the Administrative Office
of the U.S. Courts provided technical commentary. George
Cort of the Federal Judicial Center
provided access to the data. Ellen
Goldberg and Tom Hester edited
and produced the report. Jayne E.
Robinson administered final
production.
January 2002, NCJ 189430

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Washington, DC 20531

Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

PRESORTED STANDARD
POSTAGE & FEES PAID
DOJ/BJS
Permit No. G-91

 

 

Federal Prison Handbook
Advertise Here 4th Ad
Prison Phone Justice Campaign