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Turner v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections

February 9, 2010

THOMAS TURNER, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



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

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: November 5, 2009

Before Judges C.L. Miniman and Waugh.

Appellant Thomas Turner appeals the final agency action of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) denying his claim for damages allegedly caused by Sergeant H. Thomas to the KTV color television in his cell. We have carefully reviewed the record on appeal and affirm.

Turner was incarcerated at South Woods State Prison on August 18, 2008, when he filed an Inmate Claim Form alleging that Sgt. Thomas had two of his officers search Turner's cell and they deliberately snatched the cable cord from the back of his television set. On September 2, 2008, Turner provided a property invoice for one KTV, Serial No. 9093708, to the DOC as proof of ownership.

On August 29, 2008, Karen E. Vanselous, Assistant Corrections Ombudsman, wrote to Turner regarding "Damage to Television and Harassment Issues," and advised that she had referred the matter to Captain Redman for appropriate action.

On September 19, 2008, Lieutenant Cesare Coslop advised Turner in writing that his "claim did not fit the criteria for a claim submission." He explained that "[w]hile incarcerated within a correctional facility, the inmate shall be responsible for his own personal property and shall keep personal property at his or her own risk." He concluded that Turner failed to demonstrate that South Woods State Prison was negligent, as follows:

Upon investigation of your claim, I find no evidence presented by you indicating negligence on the part of South Woods State Prison. Inmates retain personal property at their own risk. As you know [South Woods State Prison] is completely double bunked where as an inmate is removed from population for whatever reason, his cell can not be locked. Any property left unsecured by an inmate is at risk. This does not constitute negligence on custody's part. The burden of proof falls on the inmate and without any evidence presented it does not fit Lost Property Claim Criteria.

You have failed to show proof that your television was damaged d[ue] to actions of custody staff. The proper channels must be followed in order to have a damaged piece of personal property repaired.

On September 25, 2008, the DOC seized Turner's television because it was altered from its original form. On October 15, 2008, Turner was notified that his television was being held in the mailroom and that he had to arrange to dispose of it within sixty days.

On October 16, 2008, Vanselous again wrote to Turner in response to his request to meet with the Assistant Ombudsman regarding another television. She advised that it was Turner's responsibility to first follow the procedures utilizing the Inmate Request Form before contacting the Office of the Ombudsman. She advised that the Inmate Tracking System did not indicate that he had submitted a request regarding the matter. Turner was required to complete that entire process. If he was not satisfied with the response, he had to resubmit the same request form within ten days to appeal the decision. If he was still not satisfied, he could contact the Office of the Ombudsman.

On December 10, 2008, Vanselous once again wrote to Turner, advising him as follows:

I have been advised by Administrator's office that you have been advised to write to Ms[.] ...


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