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Charles H. Manasco v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

December 27, 2010


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

Per curiam.


Submitted October 26, 2010

Before Judges Payne and Koblitz.

Charles Manasco, a partially deaf sexually violent predator committed to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38, appeals from the denial by the Department of Corrections (DOC) of his requests to purchase a cell phone and computer claiming, without significant legal analysis, violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 12101 to 12213, the federal Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 701 to 794e, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, federal antitrust laws,*fn1 consumer protection statutes, and the doctrine of collateral estoppel.*fn2 Additionally, Manasco asserts a violation of 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983, but does not develop any arguments in that connection.

The record establishes that Manasco was convicted on June 27, 1989 of robbery and aggravated sexual assault upon evidence that Manasco invaded the home of a woman who was previously unknown to him and subjected her to a violent, protracted sexual assault including attempted vaginal and anal penetration and forced fellatio. Additionally Manasco stabbed her twice with a knife that he found in the woman's kitchen. Manasco had previously been convicted as a juvenile of aggravated sexual assault, had exposed himself to a number of female prison staff members while in custody, and had a history of committing other non-sexually-related crimes. Manasco also had undergone four psychiatric hospitalizations, resulting in a diagnosis of schizotypical personality disorder.

Following the completion of his sentence, on August 11, 2000, Manasco was civilly committed to the STU as a sexually violent predator. Upon transfer to the STU, Manasco was provided with a Resident Guide that, among other things, listed personal computers and lap tops as items that were forbidden in the facility. The use or possession of cell phones has also been administratively prohibited. See N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1.

On January 7, 2009, Manasco filed a Request System and Remedy Form in which he sought authorization to purchase a cell phone. The request was denied on February 1, 2009 on the ground that a cell phone was a prohibited device in all secure facilities, including the STU. On February 11, 2009, Manasco filed an Administrative Remedy Request in which he stated that he sought to own a cell phone because he was deaf and had difficulty hearing what was being said when using STU phones located in noisy hallways, because of the cost of using the phones provided at the STU, because of the difficulties encountered in using calling cards, and because of the cost of using the TDD telephone*fn3 available for his use. In his letter, Manasco additionally sought consideration of a request to possess a personal computer for use in running a business from the STU.

On February 12, 2009, Manasco again sought authorization to purchase a computer. That request was denied on February 23, 2009, and he was informed:

Be advised that the STU Resident Guide clearly indicates that PCs, notebooks and lap tops are currently prohibited. It is noted that the STUs have computers for resident use. Therefore, your request for a personal computer is denied.

Although an appeal that included the denial of a cell phone was filed from this determination, no response was issued.

Following Manasco's appeal of the two decisions to this court, the DOC sought a remand to fully address the issues raised by him. On December 7, 2009, the DOC issued a final decision denying Manasco's requests. The decision noted that:

The DOC is responsible for reviewing and approving property for resident retention. In this case, the Department finds that personal computers and cell phones are not permitted because they are likely to compromise security and the therapeutic environment. Cell phones and personal computers are contraband in a secure facility because of their ability to receive, transmit or store data. Computers and cell phones are easily used to store and view data that may include pornographic pictures and/or videos. Furthermore, cell phones and personal computers are capable of accessing the internet, both through wireless and hard lines. The Department believes that access to the internet would open the door for residents to prey on unsuspecting victims and would therefore be a public safety concern. In addition to its size and capability to store large amounts of data, it would be virtually impossible for either agency [the DOC or the Department of Human Services] to monitor effectively.

The decision also noted that the STU allowed access to telephones at a wide variety of times, permitted word processors that could accomplish many of the same tasks as a computer, and had computers available for resident use in connection with ...

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