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BRAXTON v. CARLSON

April 7, 1972

John BRAXTON et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Norman CARLSON et al., Defendants


Muir, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

The Plaintiffs are convicts in the federal prison system. The question before the Court is whether the Plaintiffs have been deprived of their constitutional rights at prison disciplinary hearings.

 The incidents which resulted in the disciplinary hearings in this case occurred at the Allenwood Prison Camp, a part of the federal prison complex centered at Lewisburg, Pa. Prison officials had ordered the Plaintiff Mische transferred from the Allenwood Camp to segregation at the Lewisburg Penitentiary for a violation of camp rules. When a prison official attempted to drive Mische by truck from the camp administration office to Lewisburg, a large crowd of prisoners gathered and blocked the truck.

 The prisoners seemed bent on a confrontation. The situation became ugly. In my view, the prisoners were on the very edge of a mutiny. The camp officials consulted among themselves and then announced to the crowd that Mische would not be moved to segregation at Lewisburg. Upon this retreat by the officials from the confrontation, the prison returned approximately to normal. A mutiny was averted by the cancellation of the order to move Mische.

 The following day a large contingent of armed guards removed from the camp the Plaintiffs and other convicts who had blocked the truck.

 The disciplinary hearings which are the subject of this action resulted in punishments for the prisoners who blocked the truck and to Mische for his prior violation of camp rules.

 The Plaintiffs contend that at prison disciplinary hearings they are entitled to (1) adequate written notice of the charges, (2) a hearing before an impartial tribunal, (3) representation by private counsel or lay substitute, (4) confrontation with the witnesses against them, (5) cross-examination of such witnesses, (6) presentation of witnesses and evidence in their own behalf, (7) determination by the committee based on the relevant evidence, (8) written notice of the Committee's determination, and (9) notice of the right to appeal to the Warden.

 Prisoners at the Allenwood prison camp are automatically entitled to what is known as "camp good time." *fn1" In brief, camp good time permits an inmate to be released at a date earlier than if he were serving his sentence at an institution having greater security. Camp good time is in addition to the somewhat similar good conduct time which all federal prisoners are entitled to earn by good conduct.

 As a result of the disciplinary hearings, many of the Plaintiffs were dispatched to other prisons where they could not earn this camp good time and some of the Plaintiffs were imprisoned in segregation at various penal institutions.

 The Bureau of Prisons is charged with "the protection, instruction, and discipline of all persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States." 18 U.S.C. ยง 4042(3). A threshold question is the scope of judicial review of disciplinary hearings held by prison officials under this grant of authority. Some courts in this and other circuits have indicated that so long as the punishments imposed by prison officials are not cruel and unusual, courts may not properly interfere. *fn2" Other courts have held that they may determine whether convicts have been accorded procedural due process at disciplinary hearings. *fn3" As many of these latter courts have held, the test is that set forth in Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 262-263, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 1017, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 (1969). There the Court stated:

 
"The extent to which procedural due process must be afforded the recipient is influenced by the extent to which he may be 'condemned to suffer grievous loss,' Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 168 [71 S. Ct. 624, 647, 95 L. Ed. 817] (1951) (Frankfurter, J., concurring), and depends upon whether the recipient's interest in avoiding that loss outweighs the governmental interest in summary adjudication."

 What are the losses suffered by the Plaintiffs? The prison authorities placed a misconduct report relating to the incident in the file of each Plaintiff which will ultimately be transmitted to the Board of Parole if and when an application is made by the prisoner for parole. This misconduct report may reduce his chances for parole. Many of the Plaintiffs were transferred from Allenwood to higher security prisons where they cannot earn camp good time. Thus, they may well be incarcerated longer than if they had stayed at Allenwood. Several Plaintiffs had spent 2 months in punitive segregation at the time of the hearing in this court. This is separation from the general prison population but is not solitary confinement. It does involve the loss of certain privileges.

 For purposes of this case I assume that these punishments constitute "grievous losses" as that phrase is used in Goldberg. Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 (1969). Were the Plaintiffs given due process at their disciplinary hearings? If ...


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