On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: September 14, 2009
Before Judges Baxter and Fall.
Appellant Quddoos Farra'd, an East Jersey State Prison inmate, appeals from final administrative decisions issued by respondent Department of Corrections on May 12, 2008 and on January 29, 2009, denying his claim for property damage. We reverse, and remand for payment of appellant's claim. The following factual and procedural history informs our decision.
In November 2007 appellant was an inmate at South Woods State Prison. Appellant was charged with committing certain prohibited acts, N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1, as the result of an incident occurring on or about November 15, 2007, and he was placed in administrative segregation or detention pending adjudication of the charges. At the time those charges were filed against him, appellant was the owner and in possession of a certain Brother Word Processor in his cell that was in proper working condition. On November 30, 2007, appellant was found to have committed the charged prohibited acts and he received a sanction of fifteen days of detention; one-hundred-and-eighty days administrative segregation; and one-hundred-and-eighty days loss of commutation time.
On December 7, 2007, appellant was transferred to New Jersey State Prison, and then to East Jersey State Prison on December 13, 2007. Following his transfer, personnel at South Woods State Prison packaged appellant's word processor, and arranged for it to be shipped to appellant at East Jersey State Prison by the Central Transportation Unit of the Department of Corrections. The word processor was delivered to appellant at his cell by East Jersey State Prison personnel on January 8, 2008. When appellant attempted to use the word processor that day, it failed to operate as the "type/print mechanism just started knocking like a wheel."
On that same day──January 8, 2008──appellant filed an "Inmate Claim for Lost, Damaged or Destroyed Personal Property" on Form 943-I with the Administrator of East Jersey State Prison against South Woods State Prison for damage to his word processor. N.J.A.C. 10A:2-6.1, entitled "Filing a claim at a correctional facility or satellite unit," provides in pertinent part:
(a) When an inmate claims the loss, damage or destruction of personal property, . . . the inmate shall complete and submit Form 943-I Inmate Claim For Lost, Damaged Or Destroyed Personal Property to the Administrator or designee.
(b) The Administrator or designee shall submit Form 943-I to the Director of Custody Operations or designee for investigation and preparation of a report. The investigation conducted by the Director of Custody Operations or designee shall consist of, but not be limited to:
1. Obtaining statements from the inmate, witnesses and correctional facility staff; and
2. Verifying that the inmate was authorized to have and did in fact, possess the personal property named in the claim.
3. Verification of possession of lost, damaged or destroyed personal property may be made by review of applicable documentation such as the IIS-IM Inmate Inventory Sheet maintained by the correctional facility (see N.J.A.C. 10A:1-11).
(c) Upon completion of the investigation, Form 943-I and a copy of the investigative report shall be submitted to the Business Manager of the correctional facility for review.
(d) The Business Manager shall review Form 943-I and the Custody Operations investigative report, and complete Form 943-II Certification of Inmate Claim indicating a recommendation to approve or deny the claim with substantiating reasons.
(e) The claim packet shall include Forms 943-I and 943-II and the Custody Operations investigative report. The claim packet shall be submitted by the Business Manager to the Administrator for review and recommendation for approval or denial.
(f) Claims that are denied by the Administrator shall not be processed any further. In all cases of denial, the inmate shall be notified of the denial in writing by the Administrator with substantiating reasons.
By inter-office correspondence dated January 15, 2008, appellant was notified by East Jersey State Prison Administrator T.M. Power that his claim form had been received and "is pending the results of an investigation." Appellant supplemented his claim with a certification (misnamed as an "affidavit") of South Woods State Prison inmate A. Curcione, inmate number 411218, dated January 21, 2008, that stated, inter alia, "that the word processor was in working order prior to Inmate Farra'd being locked up in detention in 2007." Appellant also submitted an estimate from Karl Business Machines Co. Inc. dated January 31, 2008, that reflected repair of the print wheel latch assembly on appellant's word processor would cost $161.55.*fn1 Finally, by certification directed to the Claims Committee at East Jersey State Prison dated February 6, 2008, East Jersey State Prison inmate Arlington King, inmate number 245589 and appellant's cellmate, stated, inter alia, that after the word processor was brought into their cell on January 8, 2008, appellant "plugged it in, it came on and started making a knocking noise and would not type." These certifications and the repair estimate were forwarded by appellant to the East Jersey State Prison's Claims Committee as attachments to Part 1 of an Inmate Remedy System Form, Form IRSF 101, dated February 13, 2008.
Inter-office correspondence dated February 11, 2008, from Lieutenant R. Hampe of East Jersey State Prison to that prison's Executive Assistant Steve Johnson, advised that since the word processor had been received damaged, "this claim should be referred to [South Woods State Prison] and [Central Transportation Unit] for further investigation." It was also noted that appellant had been sent a repair request form "to get an estimate of repair for the word processor."
On Part 2 of the same Form IRSF 101 that appellant had submitted to the Claims Committee on February 13, 2008, Lieutenant Hampe replied to appellant on March 3, 2008, stating that his claim had been forwarded to South Woods State Prison for investigation, and that
[a]ny additional information you have regarding this claim must be forwarded there. It would be your responsibility to forward this information there since it was not included with your original claim. Write to: Ms. Karen Balicki, Administrator South Woods State Prison/215 South Burlington Road/Bridgeton, NJ 08302.
By memorandum dated April 8, 2008, East Jersey State Prison Administrator Power forwarded appellant's property claim to the Central Transportation Unit of the Department of Corrections stating the claim had "been investigated by a member of [his] staff and it has been determined that the loss occurred during transport." Captain Robert L. Flowers of the Central Transportation Unit replied to Administrator Power by memorandum dated May 2, 2008, stating:
I have reviewed with property staff members Mr. Ruiz the Central Transportation property receipt and movement paperwork that relates to the above inmate and his claim. My investigation revealed no sign of negligence on the part of Central Transportation or its staff. As you are aware, all property boxes are packed and sealed by the sending institution prior to Central Transportation's arrival. Central Transportation makes every effort to ensure safe, damage-free transport of all property.
On May 12, 2008, Administrator Power issued a "Disposition of Inmate Claim" directed to appellant, denying his property damage claim ...