Odell Johnson ("Claimant") filed claim number 104243 on May 7, 2001, stating
that Defendant unlawfully confined him in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") in
Cayuga Correctional Facility ("Cayuga") for 13 days. I held a trial on this
matter on September 20, 2004 at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn").
There is no dispute that Claimant was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing at
Greenhaven Correctional Facility ("Greenhaven") on January 11, 2000 and received
a sentence of 180 days in SHU and loss of all privileges. Claimant was then
placed in Cayuga's SHU ("SHU 200") to serve his sentence. Subsequently, on
March 24, 2000, his disciplinary determination was reversed, at which point he
became immediately eligible to lock in general population with all appropriate
privileges. He was not released from SHU confinement until April 5, 2000, 13
days after the hearing was reversed.
There is no argument that, after his hearing, claimant should have been
released from SHU in a timely manner. The question then is: was the 13-day
The State called Cynthia Ervolina, the Inmate Records Coordinator ("IRC") at
Cayuga. One of her duties is arranging the transfer of inmates in and/or out of
the facility. She is also responsible for maintaining inmates' records,
including transfer referrals and transfer orders. At the time of the actions
complained of in this claim, she was employed at the IRC office at Auburn. The
procedures and practices for transferring inmates out of SHU was the same at
both Auburn and Cayuga.
At Cayuga, the SHU 200 facility is a maximum security facility totally distinct
and separate from Cayuga ("Cayuga General"), which is a medium security
facility. Generally, to transfer an inmate out of SHU 200, the facility
Guidance Unit puts in a referral for a transfer three to four weeks before an
inmate is released. The referral is sent to the Office of Classification and
Movements ("OCM") for its review. The OCM is the office that is responsible for
determining what facility is appropriate for the inmate. They consider an
inmate's security level, mental health status, any enemy list and the prior
disciplinary history in order to place an inmate in an appropriate facility.
This office is the office that actually "cuts" the transfer order. The witness
testified that she could not schedule the transfer until she received a transfer
order from the OCM. Once she receives an order, she e-mails the Transportation
Department in Albany to arrange for transportation to the facility identified by
When an inmate's hearing is reversed, the date that the inmate is to be
released is immediate and the Guidance Unit puts in a referral for a transfer
the next business day following notice of the
Because the facility will not have the normal 3- to 4-week lead time, the IRC
and the affected departments within the Department of Correctional Services
("DOCS") can expedite the process somewhat by electronically sending information
back and forth between the facility and Albany to get the transfer arranged.
For instance, the Disciplinary Office in Albany sends a daily list to the
facilities of inmates whose hearings have been reversed. An IRC is then able to
see which of his or her keeplocked inmates will need to be transferred.
Likewise OCM will know via e-mail which inmates must be moved quickly. Here,
the reversal and notice occurred on March 24, 2000, a Friday. The next business
day was Monday, March 27, 2000 and the day that a referral for a transfer order
was requested by Cayuga's Guidance Unit (Exhibit B). The reason for Claimant's
transfer was noted on Exhibit A, that is, that he was no longer appropriately
housed in SHU 200 and that he came to SHU 200 from Greenhaven. Great Meadow
Correctional Facility was the facility identified by OCM, but they did not
immediately have a bed available until April 5, 2000. The witness opined that
the 13-day wait for a transfer was reasonable given the
Claimant did admit that he went to Level 3, the level with the most privileges
available in SHU 200, once the facility was notified of the hearing
Once the disciplinary hearing was reversed, the State's confinement of Claimant
was no longer protected by absolute immunity (
Minieri v State of New York
, 204 AD2d 982). Additionally, the release of
an inmate from disciplinary confinement is a ministerial duty, the negligent
performance of which can result in the State being cast in damages (Kagan v
State of New York
, 221 AD2d 7). However, the fact that Claimant was not
immediately released from SHU confinement does not necessarily mean that the
State failed to adequately fulfill its ministerial
I find that the Defendant was reasonable in holding Claimant the additional 13
days, given the lack of an available bed in an appropriate facility,
particularly given Claimant's maximum security classification, and the process
and procedures for inmates' movement. It appears from the record before me that
Defendant moved expeditiously to commence the transfer process and was not
negligent in carrying out its ministerial duties.
Accordingly, Claimant's claim is dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.