May 26, 2010
JAHID REED, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 10, 2010
Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.
Appellant, Jahid Reed, a New Jersey State Prison inmate, appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections, entered on November 11, 2008, adjudicating him guilty of committing prohibited act *.009, misuse or possession of electronic equipment not authorized for use, in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). Appellant received sanctions of 15 days detention, 365 days administrative segregation, 365 days loss of commutation time, 180 days loss of telephone privileges, 15 days loss of recreation privileges, and permanent loss of contact visits.
Appellant argues that the decision finding him guilty of violating prison rules was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, thus violating his right to fairness and due process of law. We reject this argument and affirm.
Appellant was sentenced to New Jersey State Prison for a term of seven years, with a mandatory parole disqualifier of two years and six months, for distribution of controlled dangerous substances on school property. After initially being housed in a State Prison, appellant was transferred to a halfway house through the Residential Community Release Program, namely the Center for Urban Education, Inc. (CUE-HOUSE). On October 22, 2008, appellant was observed being in possession of a cell phone. He does not deny that he possessed the cell phone.
The gist of his argument is that the CUE-HOUSE Resident Handbook, with which he was presented upon his admission to that facility, did not describe the severe sanctions that would be imposed for an *.009 violation and that it is a zero tolerance violation. He contends that the CUE-HOUSE Resident Handbook merely advised that certain items of contraband, including cell phones, would be confiscated and not returned if found in the possession of an inmate. He argued in the administrative proceedings that had he known the substantial sanctions he would face, he would not have possessed the cell phone. Thus, his argument is that he was not on notice before the infraction of not only the conduct that is prohibited but also of the sanctions that may be imposed. He contends this lack of notice violated his due process rights.
We find this argument unpersuasive. Upon his admission to the general prison population, appellant, like all newly admitted inmates, was given a copy of the New Jersey Department of Corrections Handbook on Discipline for Inmates. That document lists all "INMATE PROHIBITED ACTS" as set forth in N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a), including the *.009 violation. It also lists the applicable sanctions and zero tolerance policy that were applied in appellant's case. The document advises inmates of the scope of the handbook, informing them that it "applies to every State-sentenced inmate under the jurisdiction of the Division of Operations of the New Jersey Department of Corrections regardless of sentence." It further advises inmates to "refer to [their] Site-Specific Correctional Facility Handbook for additional rules." (emphasis added).
Accordingly, appellant was on notice of the prohibited conduct and applicable sanctions from the time he entered the prison system. That notice informed him that those provisions would continue to apply as long as he was under the jurisdiction of the prison system. Of course, he remained under that jurisdiction while at CUE-HOUSE. Any information contained in the CUE-HOUSE Handbook was by way of "additional" rules; nothing in that handbook superseded or rendered inapplicable the general rules that apply to all inmates as set forth in the New Jersey Department of Corrections Handbook on Discipline for Inmates.
We will not interfere with an agency's decision unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). We have reviewed the record and we are satisfied that the reports and testimony relied upon by the hearing officer and the administrator provided the required "substantial" evidence to support the disciplinary violations against appellant. See R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D); McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 195 (1995); N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15(a).
We are further satisfied from our review of the record that the disciplinary proceedings were conducted in accordance with all applicable due process requirements. See Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 522 (1975). For the reasons we have stated, appellant was not deprived of prior notice of the prohibited conduct for which he was subsequently charged and adjudicated, or of the applicable sanctions.
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