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Awad v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


June 30, 2009

KAREEM AWAD, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 31, 2009

Before Judges Wefing and Parker.

Petitioner Kareem Awad appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) rendered on May 31, 2008 adopting the hearing officer's decision and recommended sanctions. We affirm.

During a routine inspection of petitioner's cell, a mobile phone was found on the desk in the cell. Initially, neither of the two inmates who occupied the cell claimed ownership of the phone, and both were charged with prohibited act *.009, misuse or possession of electronic equipment not authorized for an inmate, N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a).

A hearing was held on May 20, 2008 after counsel substitute had been assigned to petitioner. At the hearing, petitioner pled guilty to the charge, admitting the cell phone belonged to him. He claimed that his mother was seriously ill with cancer and that he needed the phone to maintain contact with family. The hearing officer sanctioned petitioner with credit for time served in detention, 365 days administrative segregation, 365 days loss of commutation credit and 180 days loss of phone privileges. Petitioner appealed and the DOC affirmed the hearing officer's decision and the sanctions imposed.

In this appeal, petitioner essentially argues that when he pled guilty, he should not have been sanctioned to the maximum amount of time and that he was denied access to a typewriter in order to file this appeal.

Our scope of review of administrative decisions is limited to a determination of "whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record." In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999) (internal quotations omitted). We accord a strong presumption of reasonableness to an administrative decision. Smith v. Ricci, 89 N.J. 514, 525 (1982). We will reverse only when it is found that the agency's decision 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. 571, 579-80 (1980). Nothing in the regulations governing the DOC require leniency for an inmate who pleads guilty to an infraction. Moreover, we see nothing in the record before us warranting reversal or modification of the sanctions imposed.

Defendant has also claimed he was denied access to a typewriter. We have no record whatsoever regarding this claim. Accordingly, we dismiss that claim without prejudice.

Affirmed in part; dismissed in part without prejudice.

20090630

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