The claims herein allege that the claimant is a non-violent inmate improperly
placed in a maximum security correctional facility "without committing a serious
prison infraction". The trial of the claim was held on November 5, 2008.
Claimant testified that he was convicted of forgery for fraudulent receipt of
$60.00 in food stamps. He was initially designated as a medium security inmate
and confined at the Cayuga Correctional Facility (see Exhibit A). At
some point the claimant was charged with a disciplinary infraction for failing
to "properly spread my butt cheeks". Claimant asserted that he did not refuse
the instruction but that he was accused of improperly complying with the order.
A Tier III proceeding was commenced and the claimant was subsequently found
guilty and reclassified as a maximum security inmate.
Various documents were received in evidence as Exhibits 1 - 13. Claimant
concluded his testimony by stating that as a non-violent inmate it was
inappropriate for him to be housed in a maximum security prison unless he had
been convicted of violating "a serious prison infraction" as defined in 7 NYCRR
280.2 (b) (2).
The defendant called Captain Steven Rowe, Acting Superintendent for Security at
Great Meadow Correctional Facility. Captain Rowe testified that as part of his
duties he is familiar with both the inmate security classification and inmate
disciplinary systems of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). The
witness explained that inmates are classified pursuant to the inmate
classification system according to various factors including the crime or crimes
committed, the inmate's disciplinary history, prior incarcerations and overall
adjustment to confinement. Each individual inmate's classification is reviewed
quarterly. An inmate's classification can change between maximum and minimum
security throughout their period of incarceration based upon issues including
their adjustment, disciplinary infractions and legal events occurring subsequent
to their initial incarceration, including the issuance of warrants and
Claimant's initial security classification assessment was received as Exhibit
A. This document reflects that the claimant was received into DOCS custody on
July 3, 2003 and that on July 7, 2003 it was recommended that he be assigned to
a medium security prison. Captain Rowe reviewed a current status inquiry sheet
contained within Exhibit A, which he testified reflects that on March 8, 2004
the claimant was the subject of an order transferring him from Cayuga
Correctional SHU to the SHU at Southport Correctional Facility. Consistent
with the order, the claimant's security classification was changed to "max A"
on March 15, 2004. The reason for the transfer related in the document
indicates "I/M lied to C.O. about law lib. call-out - went to gym. While in
SHU, ref. frisk for med. trip. Ignored D/O's to comply. Disturbed quiet in
A transcript of claimant's inmate disciplinary history was received in evidence
as Exhibit B. The document reflects that the claimant was the subject of a Tier
II proceeding on February 17, 2004 in which he was charged with violating prison
disciplinary rules 107.20 (false information) and 109.10 (out of place)
(see 7 NYCRR 270.2). The claimant was placed on keeplock and lost
various privileges. The record further reflects that the claimant was subject
to a Tier III hearing held on March 3, 2004 in which he was charged with
violating prison disciplinary rules 104.13 (creating a disturbance), 107.10
(interference), 106.10 (failure to comply with a direct order) and 115.10
(search/frisk). As a result of the Tier III proceeding the claimant was
assigned 90 days of SHU confinement. Captain Rowe testified that it is not at
all unusual for an inmate to be reclassified from a medium security to a maximum
security risk as a result of disciplinary infractions because inmates in a
medium security prison are housed in a dormitory setting and provided an
increased level of freedom.
On cross- examination the witness testified that a Tier III infraction is one
justifying more than 30 days confinement and that the determination as to what
Tier should be charged for a particular offense is made on a case-by-case basis
by the Lieutenant assigned to review the matter. Even non-violent infractions
of prison disciplinary rules may justify confinement in the SHU. Defendant
rested at the conclusion of Captain Rowe's testimony.
The decision whether to classify prison disciplinary charges as Tier I, II or
III is discretionary and not a matter in which a court should substitute its
judgment for that of the proper correctional personnel (Matter of Pettus v
Selsky, 28 AD3d 1043 ). Furthermore, the Commissioner of the
Department of Correctional Services has "almost unbridled authority to transfer
inmates from one facility to another" (Matter of Johnson v Ward, 64 AD2d
186, 188 ; Salahuddin v Coughlin, 202 AD2d 835 ), including
transfers occurring subsequent to an inmate's reclassification from medium to
maximum security status (Matter of Martin v Coughlin, 207 AD2d 932
; Matter of Davis v Office of Classification & Movement, N.Y. State
Dept. of Correctional Servs., 208 AD2d 922 ). The Commissioner is
granted substantial discretion in determining the security classification of
individual inmates (Matter of Burr v Goord, 8 AD3d 853 ). In this
regard the Commissioner has "the power to determine what degree of supervision
is required, whether for the protection of the prisoner or the public"
(Ramerez v Ward, 64 AD2d 995 ).
In light of the above, the claimant has failed to establish a cognizable cause
of action thereby requiring dismissal of the claims.
All motions not previously decided, including motion number M-75858, are
Let judgments be entered accordingly.