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Quinzel Ward v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


October 5, 2011

QUINZEL WARD, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Department of Corrections.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 27, 2011

Before Judges Messano and Espinosa.

Quinzel Ward, an inmate in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (the Department), appeals from a final decision of the Department that adjudicated him guilty of escape and imposed sanctions, arguing that he had permission to leave the facility. We affirm.

In April 2010, Ward was transferred to Ballington House, a halfway facility. It is undisputed that he was not in the facility at 9:45 p.m. on April 27, 2010. After his absence was reported, a security and resident count was conducted and, pursuant to the Department's escape procedure, Ward was placed on "escape" status. On the following morning, staff learned that Ward was receiving emergency medical treatment for a gun shot wound at a Newark hospital.

Ward was served with a disciplinary report that charged him with prohibited act *.101, escape, N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1(a). He entered a No Plea to the charge and did not submit any statement at the disciplinary hearing.

The disciplinary hearing officer adjudicated him guilty of escape and imposed a sanction of 365 days administrative segregation, 365 days loss of commutation time, and 15 days detention. Ward filed an administrative appeal, asking for leniency. The Associate Administrator upheld the hearing officer's decision and provided the following explanation:

Sanction proportionate to the severity of the charge. If in fact staff gave permission to leave the site it would be reflected on the sign in/out log. Given you [were] found in possession of a cell phone you could have contacted Ballington House staff at any time.

In this appeal, Ward does not contend that he was denied any of the procedural due process rights that apply to him. See Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 525-33 (1975). He argues that he should not have been charged with escape because a staff member had given him permission to leave the facility and further, that he was shot and hospitalized before the charge was written.

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. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); see also In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 657 (1999). We are satisfied that the agency's decision here was amply supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record.

Affirmed.

20111005

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