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Maqbool v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


June 11, 2008

TARIQ MAQBOOL, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 14, 2008

Before Judges Lisa and Newman.

Appellant Tariq Maqbool is an inmate incarcerated at the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) in Trenton. He is serving a greater-than-life sentence for four murders and other serious crimes. The Department of Corrections (DOC) has classified him as a "high risk" inmate. Appellant requested a job as a paralegal in the law library. He was denied this position. Appellant appeals from the decision of the DOC denying his job request.

On October 3, 2003, appellant was adjudicated guilty of disciplinary charges at the Hudson County Correctional Center. These charges arose as a result of a search of his cell on September 25, 2003. Within his cell, officers found five security screwdriver bits hidden in a multi-vitamin bottle, a security bit hidden in a pack of Tops under tobacco, two cell phones, a cell phone charger, a security screwdriver with bits and Swiss Army knife hidden inside a light fixture, and nail clipper and tweezers hidden in paperwork. He was adjudicated guilty of possession of anything not authorized for retention or receipt by an inmate. These implements were considered useful in attempting or planning an escape.

On October 11, 2005, Lieutenant Donald Dudich of NJSP inquired whether appellant should be classified as a "high risk" because of the charges emanating from the Hudson County Correctional Center. The then Assistant Superintendent of NJSP, Donald Mee, determined that the inmate should be classified as a "high risk" because of the Hudson County disciplinary charges.

A classified "high risk" inmate requires additional security other than that ordinarily used when transporting inmates outside of the prison. Szemple v. N.J. Dept. of Corrections, 384 N.J. Super. 245, 247 (App. Div.) certif. denied, 187, N.J. 82 (2006). While the inmate is not automatically precluded from participation in jobs or programs available at the prison, the Classification Committee can consider that "high risk" designation and the behavior which resulted in that designation in determining whether a particular job or program is appropriate for that inmate.

Appellant made a job change request on February 28, 2007 for the paralegal position, which was reviewed and denied. The designation to that job assignment was deemed inappropriate based upon security concerns.

On appeal, appellant argues that he is being denied the opportunity to earn commutation and work credits because of the "high risk" classification. He also contends that that designation is contrary to this court's opinion in Szemple v. N.J. Dept. of Corrections, supra. We reject appellant's contentions and affirm.

At the outset, we underscore that appellant does not have a liberty interest in a specific prison job assignment. While an inmate may prefer one assignment over another, the classification of inmates, including the type of prison job to which they may be assigned, is left to the sound discretion of the DOC. Jenkins v. Fauver, 108 N.J. 239, 253 (1987). Put another way, an inmate does not have a claim of entitlement to a particular work assignment, but merely has a personal expectation. White v. Fauver, 219 N.J. Super. 170, 179-80 (App. Div. 1987).

The decision in Szemple v. N.J. Dept. of Corrections, supra, does not change the result reached here. While this court in Szemple noted that the consequence of a "high risk" designation was a need for additional security when an inmate is transported outside prison, supra, 384 N.J. Super. at 247, the "high risk" classification does not preclude automatically an inmate's participation in jobs or programs available at the state prison.

Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:9-4.3, the Classification Committee may consider an inmate's designation as "high risk" and the behavior which resulted in that designation, when determining which particular job or program is appropriate for that inmate and did so here. Furthermore, the classification decision is not an immutable determination, but is subject to periodic review. Smith v. N.J. Dept. of Corrections, 346 N.J. Super. 24, 32 (App. Div. 2001). The State represents that the High Risk Review Committee "will continue to review Maqbool's status in order to ensure that he is properly designated. If Maqbool proves that he is no longer a 'high risk' in the future, the Committee may consider removing that designation."

Our scope of judicial review of a State agency's determination is limited. Ordinarily we will reverse the decision of a state agency only if it is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or it is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole. Henry V. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 511, 579-580 (1980); Campbell v. Dept. of Civil Service, 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963).

After a full review of the record, we are satisfied that appellant has no liberty interest in a specific job assignment, that sufficient credible evidence supports the DOC's decision which was not arbitrary or capricious in denying the paralegal job to appellant.

Affirmed.

20080611

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