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Benedetto v. Dep't of Corrections

September 3, 2010

RONALD BENEDETTO, JR., APPELLANT,
v.
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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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 January 20, 2010

Remanded February 4, 2010

Resubmitted April 13, 2010

Before Judges Fuentes and Simonelli.

Appellant Ronald Benedetto, Jr., an inmate currently confined at South Woods State Prison (SWSP), appeals from the decision of respondent Department of Corrections (DOC) denying his request to reinstate the visiting privileges of his father, Ronald Benedetto, Sr., and his sister, Tina Benedetto-Ryerson. We affirm.

Appellant is currently serving a term of life imprisonment, with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. During his confinement at New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), appellant became involved in a large-scale contraband smuggling and money laundering operation (the operation), which was masterminded by another inmate, Miguel Ramos. The operation involved approximately one hundred and thirty-one inmates at NJSP, including appellant, who provided money to Ramos's family members or others outside the prison. The money was furnished either directly by the inmates or by family members of the inmates or others outside the prison. In return, contraband, including drugs, weapons, cellular telephones and escape paraphernalia, was smuggled into NJSP and delivered to the inmates who had paid the pre-arranged price to purchase the items. In total, more than $85,000 was funneled through a bank account that Ramos's family members had established as part of the operation.

A lengthy investigation by the NJSP's Special Investigations Division (SID) revealed that fifty civilians aided certain inmates in the operation. The SID concluded that

These civilians will be subject to permanent visit bans as they have transacted funds with Ramos' family for the purpose of having contraband including weapons, narcotics, cellular telephones and escape paraphernalia smuggled into NJSP. Additionally, these transactions were conducted so as to evade and disrupt the department's ability to control and monitor monetary transactions and correspondence.

Further, inmates and their visitors are on notice of the DOC's zero tolerance policy regarding drugs and alcohol and misuses or possession of electronic communications devices. See N.J.A.C. 10A:1-2.2; Department of Corrections, New Jersey State Prison Visitor's Handbook, 7 (2007) ("Any visitor found attempting to introduce any drug or alcohol or related item(s) into the Institution would be both permanently banned from visitation privileges and ANY inmate under [DOC] custody and is subject to criminal prosecution."), authorized by N.J.A.C. 10A:18-6.1(d).

It is disputed that appellant sent two payments totaling $350 to inmates identified as mail drops for the operation, and that Benedetto and Ryerson sent payments to Ramos's wife totaling $325 and $125 respectively. As a result, the DOC banned Benedetto and Ryerson from visiting appellant pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10A:18-6.3(c), which at the time provided for a permanent ban as follows:

Persons determined, by substantial evidence, to have a harmful influence upon the inmate or to constitute a threat to the security of the correctional facility shall not be granted visitation privileges.

By letters dated November 27, 2006, copies of which were sent to appellant, the DOC notified Benedetto and Ryerson of the ban. On December 5, 2006, the SID provided Benedetto an overview of the basis for the ban.

Appellant was subsequently transferred to SWSP, where he requested reinstatement of visits with his father and sister. SWSP Administrator Karen Balicki initially approved the request and reinstated Benedetto's and Ryerson's visits effective December 22, 2007; however, they were denied entry to ...


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