On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 8, 2009
Before Judges Messano and Alvarez.
Dontae Garrett, an East Jersey State Prison inmate, appeals from the final administrative decision issued by respondent, New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC), on August 19, 2008. The decision affirmed the adjudication for disciplinary infraction *.203, but modified the sanctions imposed. We affirm.
On May 14, 2008, at 1:49 p.m., Garrett returned to his halfway house, while seemingly intoxicated. He was searched by Rose Roldan, an assistant director at the halfway house, and a large amount of money was found in his pockets. Roldan could not administer a breathalyzer test because Garrett was unable to stand. The DOC was promptly called to remove Garrett, as intoxication while at a halfway house is grounds for the immediate return of an inmate to state prison.
At 2:05 p.m., Garrett was transported in a DOC van by Senior Corrections Officers (SCO) Marcano and Ramos to Riverfront State Prison. The DOC van had been searched prior to leaving Riverside, and no contraband was then found in the vehicle.
Roldan did not strip search Garrett, rather, she performed a "wand search" and directed that he empty his pockets and remove his outer clothing, such as a jacket, hat or shoes. Garrett was placed in the rear of the DOC van, his hands cuffed in the front.
During the trip, both officers noted that Garrett was fidgeting in his seat. Upon arrival, Garrett was escorted from the van, at which point SCO Marcano saw that Garrett's jeans were open at the crotch. The officers subsequently searched the van and found a small clear bag containing a rock-like substance suspected to be cocaine in the seat area occupied by Garrett. The suspected contraband was sent to the New Jersey State Police Laboratory for analysis and was found to contain cocaine. As a result, Garrett was charged with committing prohibited act *.203, which is defined as "possession or introduction of any prohibited substances such as drugs, intoxicants or related paraphernalia not prescribed for the inmate by the medical or dental staff." N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). The hearing was completed on August 13, 2008, by Hearing Officer Maniscalco.
Prior to the hearing, Garrett requested and obtained the assistance of counsel substitute, submitted written questions for answer by the SCOs, and obtained a statement from Roldan. His request for polygraph testing was denied.
After reviewing all the evidence, Maniscalco found Garrett guilty of the *.203 infraction and sanctioned him to fifteen days detention, 365 days of administrative segregation, 365 days of loss of commutation time, permanent loss of contact visits, 365 days of urine monitoring, confiscation of the contraband, a referral for drug treatment, and forwarded the matter to the Special Investigations Division for possible referral to the county prosecutor.
On August 13, 2008, Garrett administratively appealed Maniscalco's decision. On August 19, 2008, the adjudication was upheld, but the sanctions were modified. Administrator Greg Bartowski reduced the administrative segregation and loss of commutation time from 365 days each to 180 days each.
The written adjudication of the disciplinary charge indicates that the hearing was postponed on several occasions to accommodate Garrett's requests, and that delays resulted from those accommodations. During the hearing Garrett disputed the finding that the drugs belonged to him, among other reasons, because the SCOs did not actually see him placing the item in the van. Garrett also argued that the charges should be dismissed because of the length of time prior to adjudication. Maniscalco concluded, however, that there was substantial evidence supporting the charge that when escorted back to prison, Garrett concealed a small amount of cocaine between the seats in the rear of the transport vehicle. In reaching the determination, Maniscalco relied upon the statements by Roldan and the SCOs, as well as ...