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Taylor v. Beyer

Decided: June 24, 1993.


On appeal from the Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Michels, Baime and Wallace. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wallace, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).


[265 NJSuper Page 346] Appellant Maurice Taylor, a New Jersey State prisoner, appeals his placement in the Management Control Unit (MCU) of New Jersey State Prison (NJSP). Taylor is serving a life sentence with a forty-five year mandatory minimum term for the offenses of murder; aggravated assault; unlawful possession of weapons; possession of weapons for unlawful purposes; criminal attempt; and robbery. On July 9, 1991, the prison administration placed Taylor into the Prehearing Detention-MCU because Taylor had been identified as being a member of a covert organization with intent on causing injury and/or death to custody staff at NJSP. MCU confinement for inmates is not imposed as punishment but is used to prevent a potentially dangerous situation within the prison.

It is a housing assignment within NJSP where inmates are housed after a determination by the Special Classification Committee-MCU (Committee)*fn1 that the inmate poses a substantial threat to the safety of others, of damage to or destruction of property or, of interrupting the operation of a State correctional facility. N.J.A.C. 10A:5-2.5(a).

Defendant contends that the Committee acted arbitrarily because they failed to inquire into the reliability of the informants and deprived him of a fair hearing. We disagree and affirm.

The background leading to this appeal may be briefly stated. Approximately one year prior to the Committee's decision giving rise to this appeal, Taylor was involved in an incident on July 29, 1990 wherein he attacked a prison officer and refused to be locked in his cell. Taylor was charged with: assault, contrary to N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 .002; encouraging others to riot, contrary to N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 .252; engaging in, or encouraging, a group demonstration, contrary to N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 .253; and disorderly conduct, contrary to N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 .306. Subsequently, he was placed in administrative segregation. Upon his release from administrative segregation, Taylor was considered for placement in the non-punitive MCU because he was perceived as a continued threat to the orderly operation of the institution. On July 10, 1991, Taylor was given notice that he would be given an in-person classification hearing "as soon as administratively possible" before the Committee. The prison administration assigned an inmate paralegal to assist Taylor during the Committee hearing, and scheduled the hearing for July 15, 1991.

At the July 15, 1991 hearing, the Committee determined that Taylor should be assigned to MCU because he posed a substantial threat to the operation of the correctional facility. The Committee based its decision on Taylor's prior institutional disciplinary record,

the entire contents of Taylor's classification file and the criteria record sheet. The Committee also relied upon an internal affairs investigation and other confidential documents.

Taylor's appeal to Administrator Howard L. Beyer was denied and this appeal followed.

Taylor contends that his placement into MCU did not comply with the mandate of due process. In particular, he claims that he was not given information to establish the reliability of the informants used by the Committee. Prior to the hearing, Taylor was informed that he had been identified in a confidential investigation report as a "covert planner of group violence" inclined to create total disruption within the prison. Taylor inquired into the credibility of the informants to determine the reliability of the information received. He was told, "[S]ix informants were used, and . . . they were reliable on three occasions." However, Taylor's request for further details about the reliability of each informant and a summary account of the statements of the informants was denied.

We will only reverse the decision of an administrative agency if it is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable or if it is not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562, 189 A.2d 712 (1963). After careful review of the record, we affirm.

The New Jersey Administrative Code (Code) provides the procedure for the Committee to follow in conducting placement hearings. At the hearing, "the inmate shall be informed of all adverse information bearing on the case, with the exception of information designated as 'confidential.'" N.J.A.C. ...

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