Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does PLS do? PLS is a not-for-profit legal services organization that offers civil legal services to indigent prisoners in New York State prisons on issues associated with their conditions of confinement, in cases where no other counsel is available.
2. Why does PLS exist? PLS was created in 1976 in response to the Attica uprising. The events at Attica forced public attention on the inhumane treatment and living conditions of New York State prisoners. PLS was established to assist prisoners in airing their grievances and enforcing their rights.
3. Does PLS charge money for its services? No, PLS does not charge money for its services.
4. Can PLS help me challenge my criminal conviction? PLS is funded to assist individuals with certain civil issues/problems that arise within New York State prisons. We are not funded to practice criminal law and, therefore, cannot provide assistance or advice regarding criminal cases, including challenges to convictions.
5. Can PLS help me challenge my parole denial? Incarcerated New Yorkers are entitled to assigned counsel to handle their parole appeals. Because of this, PLS does not provide assistance in parole denial cases at the administrative appeal level. If your parole appeal is denied, it is possible that, depending on the merits of your case, PLS may provide assistance to you in challenging that denial in court.
6. What can I do about harassment? Harassment if a very disturbing problem. If you are harrassed by DOCCS’ staff, before you can go to court to challenge the harassment, you must file a grievance. If the case involves physical or sexual harassment, and you are not satisfied with the outcome of your grievance, you can contact PLS for additional information.
7. How do I file a grievance? Incarcerated individuals can file grievances with the Inmate Grievance Program (IGP) clerk at their prison. Grievances must be filed within twenty-one (21) days from the date of the incident or decision being grieved. If you are thinking about bringing a federal lawsuit, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a federal law, requires that prisoners exhaust their administrative remedies before filing. This means that you must submit a grievance and puruse all available appeals. Note that, according to DOCCS’ Directive 4040, Section 701.2(a), “[a] letter addressed to facility or central office staff is not a grievance.”
8. How do I contact PLS? People can contact PLS through our Contact page or by writing to one of our four offices.
9. Which PLS office should I contact? Each PLS office has a specific service areas which includes nearby correctional facilities. Inquiries about specific prisons should be directed to the office that provides services to that prison. Each office’s service area can be found on our Contact page. Inquiries that go to the wrong office will be forwarded to the appropriate office for review.