Rules for Writing

Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, offers both entertainment and education. In this section of the blog, I'll offer you pieces of the book so you can understand what all the tooting and rooting are about. It's a good book.

  • You can't write a grievance without understanding the Prison Litigation Reform Act. It requires, for instance, that you must first talk over your problem with a prison officer BEFORE you write the grievance (except in cases of injury or fear of death). That way, the officer has an opportunity to correct the problem before you take it to the Grievance Committee.
  • If the talk doesn't take care of your problem,then you MUST write a grievance. In Texas, that's a Step 1. In the federal prisons, the counselor will give you a BP 9. Answer all the questions. Be as specific as you can. Do NOT include legal jargon.
  • Make only one claim per grievance.
  • Do not repeat the grievance before the listed time is up. If it is an emergency, then go ahead! Otherwise, give the system time to respond.
  • If your problem is not resolved, and you see a flaw in the answer, then you can file a second grievance--but only about the problem in the answer: the reader got the facts wrong, the answer did not match your problem, etc. Do not write a second grievance that repeats your initial complaint--it won't get you anywhere.
  • If you get no response at all to a grievance, even after the allowed extension, then file the Step 2 with an explanation about the missing response. No, really, the main office is not under the control of the unit bosses (or Martians), and they will actually read your grievance.
  • Yes, a form-response is frustrating. It is difficult to balance the requirement to 'be specific' with the requirement 'keep it short with no attachments.' So your game plan: always include who-did what-to whom-when. Then mention the number of witnesses, for instance, but offer to discuss those details.


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