Before Judges King, Kleiner and P.G. Levy.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kleiner, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 27, 1999
On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Sharief Allah, a prisoner in the general population at Leesburg State Prison, was transferred on July 24, 1998, to the Security Threat Group Management Unit ("STGMU") at Northern State Prison. Allah appealed a Hearing Committee's decision to place him in the STGMU to the Administrator of the Northern State Prison. On September 1, 1998, the Administrator upheld the Hearing Committee's decision. In his appeal to this court, Allah raises ten points, set forth in the appendix to this opinion, challenging this transfer. Most of Allah's allegations were fully discussed in Blyther v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections, 322 N.J. Super. 56 (App. Div.), certif. denied, ___ N.J. ___(1999). See also Walker v. Dept. of Corrections, 324 N.J. Super. 109 (App. Div. 1999).
In Blyther, Judge Baime stated:
[W]e are satisfied that assignment of a prisoner to the STGMU program does not require the protection of the full panoply of rights attendant to criminal trials or even those rights attendant to disciplinary hearings. Much as the management control unit considered in [Taylor v. Beyer, 265 N.J. Super. 345 (App. Div. 1993)], the STGMU program is a non-punitive unit assignment designed to anticipate and prevent potential threats to ordinary prison operation. The Legislature has vested in the Commissioner broad discretionary power to "[d]etermine all matters of policy and regulate the administration of [penal] institutions. . . ." N.J.S.A. 30:1B-6(g). He is specifically empowered to designate places of confinement for inmates, N.J.S.A. 30:4-91.1, and to transfer inmates from one institution to another, N.J.S.A. 30:4-85. Involvement of the courts in the day-to-day management of prisons would squander judicial resources with little offsetting benefit to anyone. [332 N.J. Super. at 67.]
Blyther specifically concluded that an inmate does not have a liberty interest in being assigned to the general prison population. Id. at 65 (citation omitted).
Two points of error raised by Allah were not raised in either Blyther or Walker:
APPELLANT WAS DENIED INALIENABLE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO FREELY SELECT OR REJECT A RELIGIOUS BELIEF SYSTEM, NECESSATATING [SIC] A REVERSAL.
THE PLACEMENT OF PLAINTIFF IN LONG TERM SEGREGATION BASED UPON HIS RELIGIOUS/CULTURAL BELIEFS VIOLATES THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND EQUAL PROTECTION.
We conclude that a transfer to STGMU does not interfere with Allah's right to freely select a religious belief system nor does it infringe on his religious/cultural beliefs in violation of the First Amendment or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Based upon its suspicion that the amount of violence and disruption caused by inmates affiliated with gangs had increased to an intolerable level within the State's prison system, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections ordered the Internal Affairs Unit within the Department of Corrections ("DOC") to investigate activities of prison gangs in the State's correctional facilities. The subsequent investigation found that over a period of one year, August 1996 to August 1997, inmates affiliated with prison gangs engaged in eighty-six incidents of disruption, including assault. The tally of those incidents included eleven incidents of assaults on DOC staff; twenty-nine incidents of assaults on inmates; fourteen incidents of demonstrations or ...