On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 25, 2011
Before Judges Simonelli and Hayden.
Appellant Keith McNeil appeals from the final agency decision of respondent New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC), which denied him full minimum custody status and continued his gang minimum custody status. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
At all times relevant to this appeal, McNeil was an inmate of Bayside State Prison (BSP). He is serving a thirty-year term of imprisonment for his 1983 conviction for felony murder.
In November 2009, the BSP Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) issued an objective reclassification scoring instrument for McNeil, which contained the following scores:
Severity of Current Offense: 6 Prior Assaultive Off. History-Last 10yr 0 Escape History-Last 5yr incarceration 0 History of Institutional Viol.-Last 5 yr 0 Number of Disciplinary Reports -2 Most Severe Disciplinary-Last 12 mth 0 Age -2 Program Participation -1 ________
Total Score 1 On May 13, 2010, McNeil, then age forty-seven, appeared before the ICC for a status review. The ICC approved McNeil's placement into full minimum custody status. See N.J.A.C. 10A:9-2.6(a)3.
On May 14, 2010, McNeil met with a senior classification officer and the captain in charge of full minimum housing, who both expressed concern about McNeil's prior juvenile record. As a result, BSP advised McNeil that no changes would be made to his custody status pending receipt of his juvenile record.
McNeil's juvenile record revealed that he pled guilty in 1978 to assault with intent to rape. Following the receipt of that information, the ICC met with McNeil on June 24, 2010. The ICC retracted its prior decision to grant him full minimum custody status and recommended no change in his status due to the juvenile offense.
Following another status review on July 29, 2010, the ICC again denied approval for reduced custody status based on McNeil's prior juvenile offense. McNeil was subsequently transferred to Northern State Prison, and then to Southern State Correctional Facility, where he was also denied a reduction in custody status.
On appeal, McNeil contends that the DOC's decision to deny him a reduced custody status is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. We agree.
The DOC has six categories of custody status: close custody, maximum custody, medium custody, gang minimum custody, full minimum custody, and community custody. N.J.A.C. 10A:9-4.1(a). Upon admission to the prison facility, an inmate begins the initial classification process. N.J.A.C. 10A:9-2.1(b). At the end of that process, a male inmate appears before the ICC, ...