Before a judge rules on your case, you may consider “settlement” which means both parties involved give in to some of each others’ demands and your suit ends without a trial. In a settlement, you can get the same type of relief, like money or a policy change, as you could get if your case went to trial. As a plaintiff, it is always your decision whether to settle your lawsuit or not. No one, not even the judge or your attorney, can force you to settle.
The PLRA creates some rules on settlements. Settlements which order the prison to do something or stop doing something are often called “consent decrees.” Consent decrees must meet strict requirements: the settlement must be “narrowly drawn,” necessary to correct federal law violations, and do so in the least intrusive way. The court will need to approve of the settlement and make sure PLRA restrictions are enforced. This means that a court can only approve a consent decree if there is evidence or admissions by the defendants that your rights were violated by the prison officials. This can be a difficult task.
Some prisoners have been successful in having their consent decrees approved by a court when both the prisoner and the officials being sued agree that the decree meets all of the PLRA requirements. There is no guarantee that this will work in all cases.
Parties can enter into “private settlement agreements” that may not meet PLRA standards, but these agreements cannot be enforced by federal law. Private settlement agreements are very risky if your rights are being violated.
The PLRA does not restrict settlements that only deal with money. If you are not asking for an injunction, then the restrictions discussed above do not apply.