On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Yannotti.
Juan Reyes, an inmate in the State correctional system, appeals from a final determination of the Department of Corrections (DOC), which found him guilty of having committed a disciplinary infraction and imposed sanctions. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
On September 24, 2007, Lieutenant Bonilla, a corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison (EJSP), found a folded-up piece of paper near the door of the dayroom. The paper read, "2up, 68, 69, 67, 66, 65 Heroin." The note also stated, "43 [and] 46 High." After reading the note, Bonilla ordered Sergeant Valentin to have the inmates in the cells that were identified in the note "frisked and urined." Correction officers Kermendy, Odgers, Cabrera, and Granato conducted the search under Valentin's supervision.
Appellant was ordered to submit a urine specimen. The initial on-site test was positive for tetrahydrocannabinol and opiates. On September 25, 2007, the sample was sent to the State Department of Health, which confirmed the initial test results. The EJSP disciplinary unit received the test results on October 3, 2007.
On October 4, 2007, appellant was charged with violating N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a), *204, which proscribes the use of any prohibited substances such as drugs, intoxicants or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the inmate by the medical or dental staff. Sergeant Solsky served the charge on appellant and investigated the matter. He found that the charge had merit and referred the matter to a hearing officer for further action.
After having conducted a hearing, in which appellant was afforded the opportunity to confront officers Valentin, Cabrera and Odgers, the hearing officer found appellant guilty of the charge. The hearing officer imposed the following sanctions: fifteen days of detention, permanent loss of contact visits, the loss of 365 days of commutation credits, and urine monitoring for 365 days. The hearing officer also referred the matter to the classification committee for a possible transfer to administration segregation at New Jersey State Prison.
On October 22, 2007, appellant filed an administrative appeal. On October 23, 2007, Assistant Superintendent La Forgia upheld the hearing officer's determination. This appeal followed.
Appellant argues that the DOC's finding of guilt was not supported by substantial evidence. He maintains that his right to due process was violated because "substantial errors" were made in the urine testing process.
The standard of review that applies in this case is well established. When reviewing a final decision of the DOC in a prisoner disciplinary matter, we consider whether there is substantial evidence to support the finding that the inmate committed the prohibited act and whether, in making its decision, the DOC followed the regulations adopted to afford inmates procedural due process. McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 194-95 (1995); Jacobs v. Stephens, 139 N.J. 212, 220-22 (1995). Applying that standard of review, we are convinced that the Department's decision must be affirmed.
Appellant first argues that the correction officers at EJSP did not have grounds to order him to provide a urine sample. We disagree. N.J.A.C. 10A:3-5.10(b)(6) provides that inmates shall be tested:
[w]hen a custody staff member of the rank of Sergeant or above or a Special Investigations Division Investigator believes, based upon his or her education and experience, that there is a reasonable factual basis to suspect the inmate ...