United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge United States District Court.
Townsend, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a petition under
28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his prison disciplinary
hearing in WCC 17-02-85 in which a Disciplinary Hearing
Officer found him guilty of assault/battery in violation of
Indiana Department of Correction policy B-212. He was sanctioned
with the loss of 30 days earned credit time.
Ground One, Mr. Townsend argues that he was “unjustly
placed in segregation” prior to his disciplinary
hearing. He also claims that his placement in segregation
violated Department of Correction policy. The Department of
Correction's failure to follow its own policy doesn't
rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Estelle
v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law
violations provide no basis for federal habeas
relief”); Keller v. Donahue, 271 F. App'x
531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (inmate's claim that prison
failed to follow internal policies had “no bearing on
his right to due process”). Mr. Townsend's habeas
petition is limited to challenging the fact or duration of
his confinement. “Section 2254 is the appropriate
remedy only when the prisoner attacks the fact or duration of
‘custody.'” Sylvester v. Hanks, 140
F.3d 713, 714 (7th Cir. 1998). See also Sandin
v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 487 (1995) (distinguishing
between a prison disciplinary sanction that inevitably
affects the duration of an inmate's sentence, and
disciplinary sanctions - such as placement in disciplinary
segregation - that do not affect the duration of his
sentence). Because Mr. Townsend's disciplinary
segregation didn't affect the fact or duration of his
confinement, he can't challenge the imposition of
segregation in this petition. Ground One doesn't identify
a basis for granting habeas corpus relief.
Ground Two, Mr. Townsend challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence used to find him guilty. In the disciplinary
context, “the relevant question is whether there is any
evidence in the record that could support the conclusion
reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-456 (1985). “In
reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not
required to conduct an examination of the entire record,
independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the
evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary
board's decision to revoke good time credits has some
factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d
F.3d 787, 786 (7th Cir. 1999).
[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. It is not our province to
assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the
disciplinary board's decision.
Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis
Townsend was issued two conduct reports charging him with
assault and battery. Mr. Townsend was initially charged with
assault and battery in violation of B-212 on January 12,
2017. The conduct report charged him as follows, “On 12
Jan 17 at 11:00 AM at GSC custody officer Offender Townsend,
Gregory #149719 stated that he assaulted the offender that
was found on 7 Dorm on 11 Jan 17 with marks on him to me and
Mr. Watts.” Mr. Townsend was sent to segregation to
await a hearing on this charge. On February 10, 2017, Mr.
Townsend was again charged with violating B-212. The second
conduct report stated. “On 02-10-2017 while monitoring
offender phones, offender Gregory Townsend 149719 was talking
to Willie Sanders talking about why he was in segregation.
Offender Townsend says, ‘I done whooped a honkey, I
done whooped an Aryan.'”
conduct reports share the case number WCC 17-02-85.
Townsend was found guilty of violating IDOC B-212. That
offense is defined as “[c]ommitting a battery/assault
upon another person without a weapon or inflicting bodily
injury.” Adult Disciplinary Process, Appendix I.
hearing officer had enough evidence to find Mr. Townsend
guilty. A conduct report alone can be sufficient evidence to
support a finding of guilt. McPherson v. McBride,
188 F.3d at 786. The conduct reports contain first-hand
evidence of Mr. Townsend's own statements, in which he
admitted to assaulting another prisoner. These admissions
sufficiently support the hearing officer's finding of
guilt. The hearing officer's finding need only be
supported by “some evidence” and even
“meager” evidence will suffice. These admissions
from Mr. Townsend meet this low threshold. See Webb v.
Anderson, 224 F.3d at 652.
Townsend also argues that he shouldn't have been found
guilty based on hearsay evidence. Evidence rules don't
apply to prison disciplinary hearings. See Walker v.
O'Brien, 216 F.3d 626, 637 (7th Cir. 2000);
Jackson v. Carlson, 707 F.2d 943, 948 (7th Cir.
1983) (upholding disciplinary finding of guilt where
“the Institution Discipline Committee had direct
evidence from a staff source, albeit presented in the form of
hearsay”). The hearing officer was allowed to consider
hearsay evidence against Mr. Townsend. Ground Two doesn't
identify a basis for granting habeas corpus relief.
Ground Three, Mr. Townsend argues that his discipline
violates double jeopardy principles. According to Mr.
Townsend, the hearing officer only issued the second conduct
report after the hearing officer lost the first report. He
says that because he had already been charged once for the
offense, the hearing officer was prohibited from issuing the
second conduct report in February 2017, based on the same
incident. The Double Jeopardy Clause doesn't apply in
prison disciplinary cases. See Meeks v. McBride, 81
F.3d 717, 722 (7th Cir. 1996). Both conduct reports were part
of one disciplinary case, and were adjudicated during his
disciplinary hearing on February 21, 2017. Ground Three
doesn't serve as a basis for granting habeas corpus
Townsend doesn't not need a certificate of appealability
to appeal this decision, because he is challenging a prison
disciplinary proceeding. See Evans v. Circuit Court,
569 F.3d 665, 666 (7th Cir. 2009). However, he can't
proceed in forma pauperis on appeal because the court finds