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Court Rejects Inmate’s Due Process Challenge

13
Apr
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

Jenkins v. D.O.C., ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 35 (March 5, 2010) – Finding of disciplinary infraction affirmed. “Rahgeam Jenkins, an inmate at New Jersey State Prison, appeals from the final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) finding him guilty of disciplinary infraction *.011, which is defined in N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1 as ‘possession or exhibition of anything related to a security threat group.’

He challenges the regulation as unconstitutionally vague and the sufficiency of the evidence against him…. The thrust of Jenkins’s appeal is that, without notice of the ‘specifically prohibited words or images relating to STG groups,’ the regulation is unconstitutionally vague because it fails to provide adequate notice to those individuals who are subject to it. See State v. Cameron, 100 N.J. 586, 591 (1985).

To prevail on a facial vagueness challenge, the law must be shown to be impermissibly vague in all its applications. Id. at 594. When, however, the law is challenged as applied, it must be proven that the law is unclear in the context of the particular case…. at a minimum, the regulation provided notice that the possession of ‘security threat group literature’ is prohibited; that such ‘literature’ includes correspondence and that, if the contents of the letter ‘relate either directly or indirectly to the goals of a security threat group,’ it will fall within the prohibition.

We reject the argument that due process requires the DOC to specifically identify prohibited words or images relating to security threat groups. A list of prohibited terms and symbols would be easily sidestepped by inmates motivated to do so and would subvert the prison’s legitimate objective to curtail STG activity….

[W]e conclude that this regulation survives the facial vagueness challenge because it provides inmates with adequate notice that involvement in STG activity will not be tolerated and identifies general categories of behavior that will subject them to disciplinary action….

Given the common thread of language identified by the investigator as part of the Bloods vernacular and the expressed interest in evading prison regulations, these letters are fairly considered to ‘relate either directly or indirectly to the goals of a security threat group,’ that is, ‘a group of inmates possessing common characteristics, interests and goals’ that poses a threat to the interruption of ‘the safe, secure and orderly operation of the correctional facility[].’ N.J.A.C. 10A:5-1.3. Therefore, we conclude that the regulation provided Jenkins with fair notice that possession of these letters was prohibited.”

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