Recent Drop in Prison Condition Lawsuits
Eastern District of Arkansas Continues to Lead Nationally

The latest data from the federal courts show that the number of civil lawsuits filed over prison conditions has declined sharply since reaching a peak in February 2014. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), there were 808 such lawsuits filed in April 2015, down from 1,213 filed in February 2014.

Bar and line plot of fymon

Figure 1. Prison Condition Civil Filings over the last 5 years

The long term trend in prison condition civil filings going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Table 1. Top Ten Districts
(per one Million People)
Count Rank 1yr
Ark, E 34.8 57 1 1 1
Fla, N 22.0 39 2 5 3
Ark, W 19.8 26 3 10 12
Ga, S 18.8 29 4 4 10
Miss, S 15.5 29 5 12 2
Ga, M 14.4 29 6 6 5
Tenn, E 14.1 36 7 32 36
Ill, S 14.0 18 8 3 33
Ala, M 13.1 15 9 14 4
La, E 9.2 15 10 26 15

Relative to population, the volume of civil matters of this type filed in federal district courts during April 2015 was 2.6 per every million persons in the United States. One year ago the relative number of filings was 2.7. Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of prison condition civil filings in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts. Table 1 lists the ten most active districts for such cases in per capita terms in April 2015.

  • The Eastern District of Arkansas — with 34.8 civil filings as compared with 2.6 civil filings per one million people in the United States — was the most active through April 2015. The Eastern District of Arkansas was ranked first a year ago as well as five years ago.

  • The Northern District of Florida ranked second. The Northern District of Florida was ranked fifth a year ago, while it was ranked third five years ago.

  • The Western District of Arkansas now ranks third. The Western District of Arkansas was ranked tenth a year ago.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.

Report Date: May 27, 2015
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Copyright 2015, TRAC Reports, Inc.