On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Michels, O'Brien and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by O'Brien, J.A.D.
Norwood L. White (appellant), an inmate in the State prison system, appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) which affirms the denial of appellant's appeal from the Classification Committee's decision to reduce his custody status. We affirm.
Appellant is serving an aggregate term of 35 to 53 1/2 years in State prison for a series of offenses, including a term of 30 years to the Adult Diagnostic & Treatment Center (ADTC) for rape. He was initially received in the State prison system on April 1, 1975. On May 21, 1982, he was transferred from the Vroom Readjustment Unit at Trenton State Prison to ADTC at his own request. Upon his arrival at ADTC, he was classified as maximum custody. However, on September 16, 1982, he was approved for "gang minimum" custody status.*fn1
Inmates classified as minimum security and who are considered sufficiently trustworthy to be employed in honor camps, farms or details, shall receive further remission of time from their sentences at the rate of three days per month for the first year of such employment and five days per month for the second and each subsequent year of such employment. N.J.S.A. 30:4-92. It is not disputed that while classified as "gang minimum" custody appellant became entitled to, and received, all benefits accompanying that status, including remission of time from his sentence provided for by the statute.
On August 4, 1984, an inmate serving a life sentence for murder escaped from the Minimum Security Rahway Camp which is a housing facility adjoining Rahway State Prison and located in a densely populated community. ADTC is located in the immediate vicinity of Rahway State Prison. As a result of that escape, the DOC reassessed its policy concerning inmate eligibility for reduced custody at both ADTC and Rahway State Prison.*fn2 A telephone directive was given by Gary J. Hilton, Assistant Commissioner of the DOC, to the Acting Superintendent of ADTC, which ordered a Special Classification Review Committee to evaluate all ADTC inmates who were either already assigned to, or on a waiting list for, reduced custody status. Mr. Hilton suggested that a "conservative outlook" be taken by the committee and that each inmate's criminal offense
history be particularly scrutinized before he is afforded the privilege of a reduced custody status.*fn3
On August 9 and 10, 1984, the Classification Committee met and conducted an in-depth review of all ADTC inmates assigned to a reduced custody status. As a result, 28 inmates reverted to maximum custody from either "gang" or "full minimum" custody status. Two inmates reverted to "gang minimum" from "full minimum" status, and four inmates, including appellant, temporarily reverted to maximum custody pending further Classification Committee review. An additional 27 inmates retained their reduced custody status.
Appellant was notified by memo dated August 10, 1984 from Grace Matava, Senior Classification Officer, that the result of the Classification Committee's review of his case was as follows:
Revert to maximum custody status pending clarification of your sentence. You may continue to work in your present assignment until your case is reviewed again by the Classification Committee.
After an exchange of correspondence and several meetings between Ms. Matava and appellant, his parole eligibility date was finally ascertained and requested status review was heard by the Classification Committee. As reported in a memo from Ms. Matava to appellant dated December 6, 1984, the Classification Committee's decision was:
Confirm removal from gang ...