October 14, 2008
RODNEY WILLIFORD, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 29, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and LeWinn.
Rodney Williford is an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC). He appeals the agency's decision to assign him to the Management Control Unit (MCU).
Williford is serving a fifty-year sentence, with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility, for manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault and parole violation. The record reveals that since the inception of his current incarceration in November 1990, Williford has accrued a total of twenty-eight disciplinary charges, sixteen of which are preceded by an asterisk connoting particularly serious infractions. As a result of Williford's asterisk charges, he has received approximately six and one-half years in administrative segregation.
On appeal, Williford raises procedural and substantive challenges to the administrative decision. Having reviewed those challenges in light of the record and the applicable law, we find them to be without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments.
The criteria which the DOC must consider when determining whether to place an inmate in the MCU relate as much to the inmate's history as to any evidence of current conduct by the inmate that arguably makes him a threat to the safety of others or to the operation of the prison facility. N.J.A.C. 10A:5-2.4(a)1-9. Because of Williford's continued disobedience of prison rules, he was placed in administrative prehearing MCU detention on June 20, 2007. The MCU hearing was scheduled to begin on July 3, 2007, but was postponed to July 11, 2007.
In rendering its decision, the Management Control Unit Reviewing Committee (MCURC) considered Williford's extensive disciplinary record, including a 1997 incident in which he stabbed a corrections officer at Riverfront State Prison with an ice-pick type weapon; he received an additional state prison sentence of twenty years for this assault. The MCURC also noted multiple institutional charges for weapons possession.
We conclude that the record supports the MCURC's findings that Williford demonstrates a "tendency towards violent behavior" as well as "an inability to interact with staff members or house with other inmates in a non-disruptive manner." Notwithstanding the years he has spent in administrative segregation, it appears Williford's institutional adjustment remains poor because, in the assessment of the MCURC, he "has difficulty conforming to institutional rules and regulations."
In support of its recommendation leading to the decision under review, the MCURC noted:
It is the opinion of the Committee that Inmate Williford continues to demonstrate he is incapable of successfully housing in a General Population setting. Inmate Williford is in need of a more structured environment th[a]n General Population. The Committee feels an institutional transfer or a reduction in privileges would be of little deterren[ce] in the activity of Inmate Williford.
Therefore, it is the decision of the [MCURC] that Inmate Williford needs to be closely supervised. The restricted environment of the [MCU] is considered [an] appropriate assignment at this time.
Williford appealed the MCURC's decision. On November 27, 2007, Prison Administrator Michelle R. Ricci issued a letter decision denying his appeal.
The administrator first rejected Williford's claim that the MCURC had violated his due process rights:
Your first issue pertains to an alleged violation of your due process. Your letter states that you were placed in MCU on May 29, 2007 and you were not notified officially that you were scheduled for a hearing until July 9, 2007. My review of your [c]lassification file, reveals that there is no violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:5-2.6(f) and 2.8(b). According to the record, you were given official notice on June 20, 2007 indicating that you were being placed or authorized for pre-hearing MCU and a hearing will be scheduled for July 3, 2007. The record also indicates that this hearing was postponed and was rescheduled for July 11, 2007. And, at that time you were seen by the MCURC.
Secondly, your letter also states that you were not provided a copy of the Criteria Record Sheet within twenty-four hours of your hearing. My review of your classification file reveals that you were provided a copy of the aforementioned on July 9, 2007.
Administrator Ricci also affirmed the MCURC's decision to place Williford in the MCU:
Upon review of your classification folder and the Notice of Classification Decision for your initial MCU review, I have determined that the MCURC decision is appropriate and is to be upheld. The committee considered your past institutional conduct or disciplinary record, which reflects that you cannot be housed in general population due to your disruptive conduct at New Jersey State Prison or any other correctional facility. You have accumulated numerous charges while in general population including fighting, threatening with bodily harm, possession and use of narcotics, assault, assault with a weapon, participating in an activity related to a security threat group, among others. Even though you were [in] medium custody at [East Jersey State Prison], this custody status does not delineate the fact that you are a threat to the safety and security of this institution.
Finally, the committee took into consideration all of the aforementioned factors listed, along with your past disciplinary record when you were reviewed for placement. As a result, it is quite apparent that you are incapable of being housed in general population. Your past disruptive behavior along with the numerous infractions you received while incarcerated at [New Jersey State Prison] and other corrections institutions indicates that you should be housed in a highly structured environment such as the Management Control Unit.
Our scope of review of the DOC's decision is limited.
Unless we find that the agency's action is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, we will not disturb that decision. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999); Barone v. Dept. of Human Servs., 210 N.J. Super 276, 285 (App. Div. 1986), aff'd, 107 N.J. 355 (1987).
Applying that limited scope of review to this record, we affirm substantially for reasons set forth in the July 11, 2007 decision of MCURC and the DOC's decision of November 27, 2007.
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