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Nieves v. New Jersey Dep't of Corrections


November 10, 2010


On appeal from the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.


Submitted October 26, 2010

Before Judges Skillman and Espinosa.

Inmate David Nieves appeals from the denial of his personal property claims. We affirm.

Nieves was transferred from Northern State Prison (NSP) to New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) in November 2008. In mid-December 2008, he submitted a claim for lost, damaged or destroyed personal property, in which he claimed that he was missing a television and a radio, valued collectively at $190 and a fan, a watch and three storage bins, valued collectively at $85. Nieves's claim regarding the lost property was later forwarded to NSP. NSP determined that the claim was invalid because there was no proof of negligence on the part of NSP staff. The disposition sheet stated that the Claims Committee also relied upon a custody report and inmate inventory sheet in reaching its determination. Nieves did not file an administrative appeal from this decision.

On January 11, 2009, Nieves acknowledged receipt of the television on an Inmate Inventory Sheet. Two days later, he submitted a claim in which he stated that his television was damaged; that it was delivered to him with sound and no picture and that it had someone else's name and number on it. NJSP staff provided a written response regarding the damaged television claim, stating that all appliances are checked when received and that Nieves's television was operational when inspected on January 11, 2009. In his appeal from the final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Nieves states that he "evidently overlooked" these facts when he confirmed receipt of the television in the mailroom.

In the Appeal Decision, the Administrator stated that, based upon information received from the Property Supervisor, Nieves was called to the property room, identified the property and that his name and number were engraved on the property and no additional names or numbers were noted. In addition, the Administrator stated, "the TV was tested, functional and belonged to [Nieves]."

Even in a disciplinary proceeding, an inmate is not entitled to the full panoply of rights as is a defendant in a criminal prosecution. Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 522 (1975). N.J.A.C. 10A:2-6.2 identifies the factors to be considered before a claim such as those filed here are approved or disapproved:

1. Whether the investigation revealed any neglect by the correctional facility;

2. Whether care was exercised by facility staff preventing property loss, damage or destruction;

3. Whether the inmate exercised care in preventing property loss, damage or destruction;

4. Whether it has been proven that the inmate was authorized to have and did, in fact, possess the item(s) named in the claim;

5. Whether sufficient information has been supplied by the inmate, including proper receipts, witnesses and investigative reports;

6. Whether the inmate submitted the claim in a timely manner;

7. Whether the loss or damage exceeds authorized amounts of correctional facility personal property limits;

8. Whether the personal property is considered contraband; and

9. Whether other reviewers recommended denial of the claim and the reasons therefor.

Because the record shows that the property was a television valued at less than $200; Nieves's receipt was documented; and he submitted his claim along with statements from witnesses within two days, it appears that consideration of factors 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 favor Nieves. However, there is no proof of any neglect by the correctional facility. More significant, it is undisputed that Nieves went to the mailroom and inspected the television on January 11, 2009. According to Sergeant S. Davis from the NJSP mailroom, Nieves came to the mailroom; the television was identified as his property; his name and number were properly engraved on the television; and the television was checked and was functional. In response, Nieves only states that he "evidently overlooked" the fact that there was someone else's name and number on the television when he "confirmed the television in the mail room[.]"

Our review of the DOC's decision is limited. We will only reverse when the agency's decision is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole. New Jersey Soc'y for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. New Jersey Dep't of Agric., 196 N.J. 366, 385 (2008); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); see also In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999) (court must uphold agency's findings, even if it would have reached a different result, so long as sufficient credible evidence in the record exists to support the agency's conclusions). We are satisfied that the evidence in the record is sufficient to support DOC's finding that Nieves's claim for damage to his television was not valid.

Because Nieves did not appeal to the Administrator from the NSP Claims Committee's decision regarding the loss of his radio, fan, watch and storage bins, that decision is interlocutory. Therefore, we dismiss that part of the appeal and affirm the Department's decision to deny his claim regarding the television.


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