United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
T. MOODY JUDGE
Masterson, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition
challenging the prison disciplinary hearing (WCC 15-07-32)
where a Westville Correctional Facility Disciplinary Hearing
Officer (DHO) found him guilty of possession of unauthorized
property in violation of prison rule B-215 on July 8, 2015,
and deprived him of 30 days earned credit time. (DE # 1 at
1.) Masterson's petition raises four grounds, but all
four grounds are different variations of his argument that
the DHO did not have sufficient evidence to find him guilty.
The court agrees.
facts of this case are not in dispute. Masterson's cell
was searched and a blue ski cap was found on his bunkbed. (DE
## 7-1 at 1; 7-4 at 1). He was charged with possession of
unauthorized property. (DE # 1 at 1.) Masterson argues both
that the hat belonged to his cellmate, and that the hat was
not contraband because it was issued by a different IDOC
facility. (Id. at 2-3.) Respondent only addresses
the first part of Masterson's petition, arguing that
constructive possession is a sufficient basis on which to
impose discipline. (DE # 7 at 6.) The issue, however, is not
whether Masterson had actual or constructive possession.
Rather, the issue is whether the blue ski cap was contraband.
Conduct Report charges Masterson as follows: "[o]n above
date, 06-30-2015, at approximately 2:15 pm I Officer S.
Cordona performed a shakedown on offender Masterson, Elkano #
910270 bunk 8W244 and confiscated a blue knitted ski
cap." (DE # 7-1 at 1.) Masterson's hearing took
place on July 8, 2015. (DE # 7-4 at 1.) At his hearing,
Masterson reported that the ski cap was not his.
(Id.) The DHO found Masterson guilty of possession
of contraband "[b]ased on Conduct Report, offender
statement, photo, evidence record." (Id.)
argues that the hat was an IDOC-issued hat. (DE # 1 at 2.) He
argues that a different IDOC facility issues blue hats to
prisoners, and that Westville does not confiscate these hats
upon transfer to Westville. (Id.) While respondent
does not directly address the issue, the IDOC tacitly
conceded the point when, in response to Masterson's
disciplinary appeal, the facility denied the appeal on the
basis that "[t]his particular hat is not issued at this
facility." (DE # 7-6 at 1.)
there may be a rule at Westville prohibiting possession of
blue ski hats, respondent fails to identify one. The Conduct
Report states only that Masterson was in possession of the
hat in violation of IDOC policy B-215. (DE # 7-1 at 1.) This
policy is violated by the "[u]nauthorized possession,
destruction, alteration, damage to, or theft of State
property or property belonging to another." Adult
Disciplinary Process, Appendix I.
However, there is no explanation in any of the disciplinary
documents addressing the question of why Masterson's
possession of the hat violated B-215. Respondent also fails
to address the issue in the response.
on the other hand, identifies a number of prison policies
that appear to permit the possession of the hat. The
Westville Correctional Facility General Rules and Procedures
Offenders at the Westville Correctional Facility are allowed
to possess only those items permitted by Offender Personal
Property Policy 02-01-101. Offenders are authorized to
possess items purchased through facility commissary and
approved facility programs within authorized limits. Upon
arrival at Westville Correctional Facility, all personal
property will be inventoried. Approved items can be retained
by the offender.
(DE # 8-1 at 5.) Westville policy also states, "[i]tems
of personal property which are not State issued, Commissary
purchased, or otherwise authorized by Westville Correctional
Facility [are] strictly prohibited." (DE # 8-1 at 8.)
Masterson contends that the hat was state issued, and
therefore permitted pursuant to the facility's rules.
Respondent does not address Masterson's argument and does
not address how possession of the hat violated prison policy.
is no evidence that Masterson violated any IDOC policy. While
the evidentiary bar for prison disciplinary hearings is low,
there must be some evidence of guilt.
[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only]
have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a
lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of
evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the
record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the
disciplinary board were without support or otherwise
arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must
point to the accused's guilt.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis
omitted). Here, there is no evidence that any IDOC policy
prohibits possession of blue ski hats. In fact, the evidence
suggests that the hat was IDOC issued. While the rules state
that "[i]tems brought in from other facilities are
subject to the procedures of Westville Correctional Facility
and may not be authorized" (DE # 8-1 at 6), respondent
does not identify any such policy that is applicable here. In
the absence of any evidence that the hat constituted
contraband property, the DHO did not have sufficient evidence
to find Masterson guilty.
these reasons, the Habeas Corpus petition (DE # 1) is
GRANTED. The respondent is ORDERED to file documentation by
June 1, 2017, showing that the guilty finding in WCC 15-07-32
has been ...