April 30, 2008
DHARUBA KALAHARI, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 16, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and Parker.
Dharuba Kalahari, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections, appeals from a Final Decision of the Department finding him guilty of two disciplinary infractions, *.203, possession of a prohibited substance, and *.205, misuse of authorized medication. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Kalahari, while undergoing a routine search of his person, was found to be in possession of candy that was not available in the prison's commissary. When questioned about it, he said that someone had brought it to him from the outside. As a result of the discovery of this candy, corrections officers searched the cell that Kalahari shared with three other inmates. They found in his locker a quantity of round, pink pills that were later identified as "Catapres" and one pink pill later identified as "Vastoc." Both are prescription medications. According to records at the prison, Kalahari had been given a prescription for Vasotec, but not for Catapres. When he was questioned about this discovery, Kalahari initially admitted that the pills belonged to him. He was then charged with *.205 and *.203.*fn1
The disciplinary hearings took place over several days. Among the items considered by the hearing officer was a statement of the corrections officer who searched Kalahari's cell that his locker was locked and had to be opened with a master key, as well as statements from Kalahari's cellmates that the locker had been unlocked when the corrections officer entered the cell.*fn2 The hearing officer discounted these latter statements on the basis that they could have been the product of coercion.
On appeal, Kalahari contends that his admission that the pills were his should have been excluded, that the decision of the hearing officer was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, that the charge of misuse of medication should have been downgraded, that his placement in prehearing detention was improper, and that his transfer to a new facility interfered with his right of appeal.
We note the narrow scope of our review. We may reverse such a final agency decision only when it is arbitrary, capricious or not supported by credible evidence in the record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). We are satisfied that, applying that standard, we have no basis to interfere with the adjudication that Kalahari committed these infractions. In addition, he received all the procedural protections to which he was entitled under Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496 (1975). Contrary to his assertion, the use of his statement did not violate N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.5; his statement was not used in any subsequent criminal proceeding, but rather only in the disciplinary hearing, which is not criminal in nature. Avant, supra, 67 N.J. at 522. There was no impropriety in his placement in prehearing detention prior to the disciplinary proceedings, and there was no interference with his right of appeal. Kalahari was not prejudiced because his appeal dated June 6, 2007, was not considered; that appeal was identical in substance to his appeal of June 4, 2007, which was considered and ruled upon. Further, it was entirely proper that the associate administrator handled his appeal; she was the administrator's designee under N.J.A.C. 10A:4-11.2(d).