Torts Reports
Torts Reports
Sep 2, 2020
The Orphans of the Criminal Justice System
Play • 12 min

In “The Orphan of the Criminal Justice System,” we address the difficulties that prisoners face in attempting to leverage tort law to achieve change, specifically focusing on environmental issues within prisons. While prisoners often have compelling tort law claims, they remain largely barred from seeking any means of recourse while in prison. To explore some of the structural obstacles that contribute to this, we interview Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project attorney Joel Thompson, who addresses some of the specific challenges that he has faced in attempting to bring suits on behalf of prisoners, such asinformation, strategic litigation on the partof defendants, and some of the reforms created by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). To zoom in on the subject of environmental tort law, we interview Professor Anthony Moffa at the University of Maine, who recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in a case called Vega v. Semple,which centers on the issue of radon exposure in prisons. The suit, if successful, could open the door for prisoners to expand their use of environmental tort law in achieving reform. Our hope is that this podcast will shed light on an area of tort law that remains largely unexplored but that could be highly effective in producing change within prisons.

Thank you to our interviewees: Joel Thompson and Professor Anthony Moffa.

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