United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Lee Snelling, Jr., a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a
habeas corpus petition challenging his disciplinary hearing
(MCF 17-05-28) at the Miami Correctional Facility held on May
12, 2017, where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found
him guilty of making or possessing intoxicants in violation
of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy B-231. ECF
1 at 1. As a result, he lost 30 days earned credit time and
was demoted from Credit Class 1 to Credit Class 2.
Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural
due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1)
advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to
be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary
evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional
safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by
the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the
disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be
“some evidence” in the record to support the
guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass. Corr Inst. v.
Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). In his petition,
Snelling argues there are three grounds which entitle him to
habeas corpus relief.
Snelling contends that the DHO did not have sufficient
evidence to find him guilty. ECF 1 at 3. In the context of a
prison disciplinary hearing, “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,
455-56 (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 784, 786 (7th Cir.
1999) (quotation marks omitted).
[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
Snelling was found guilty of violating IDOC offense B-231
which prohibits inmates from “[m]aking or possessing
intoxicants, or being under the influence of any intoxicating
substance (e.g., alcohol, inhalants).” Adult
Disciplinary Process, Appendix I.
Conduct Report charged Snelling as follows:
On the 30th day of April at approximately 10:45 PM Sgt. E.
Parkin and, I Officer A. Smith were conducting a cell search
on the 3/4 side of CHU in cell 349/350. When we opened the
property box belonging to Offender Snelling, Joseph DOC#
178636 from C-350, we found a large trash bag filled with
homemade alcohol, commonly referred to as
“hooch”. Offender Snelling admitted that the
intoxicant belonged to him. Offender Snelling was identified
by his State issued ID badge.
ECF 1 at 4.
had sufficient evidence to find Snelling guilty of violating
offense B-231. A conduct report alone can be enough to
support a finding of guilt. McPherson, 188 F.3d at
786. Such is the case here. In the conduct report, Officer
Smith detailed his first-hand knowledge of discovering
Snelling's waterbag containing homemade alcohol or
“hooch” when he and Sergeant Parkin conducted a
search of cell 349/350 on April 30, 2017. ECF 1 at 4. Here,
he noted that, when they opened Snelling's property box,
they found a large trash bag filled with homemade alcohol.
Id. Officer Smith then memorialized the fact that,
when they discovered the homemade alcohol, Snelling admitted
that the alcohol belonged to him. Id. Sergeant
Parkin also provided a statement corroborating the discovery
of the homemade alcohol in Snelling's cell as described
in the conduct report. ECF 1 at 9. Because the waterbag was
discovered in Snelling's cell inside his property box and
he admitted that it belonged to him, there was more than
“some evidence” for the DHO to conclude that
Snelling violated offense B-231. Therefore, the DHO's
finding that Snelling was guilty was neither arbitrary nor
unreasonable in light of the facts contained in the conduct
Snelling contends there was insufficient evidence to find him
guilty because his cell-mate, offender Ely Harvey, claimed
ownership of the waterbag. ECF 1 at 3. In his petition,
Snelling states that Harvey wrote a statement explaining that
Harvey himself owned the waterbag and it was located in
Harvey's property box, but Snelling only used the
property box three times a week with Harvey. Id.
According to Snelling, Harvey admitted in his statement that
he also owned the hose for the waterbag, which was found in
the property box and Snelling had not accepted possession of
any item that had been confiscated. Id. According to
Snelling, Harvey asked Officer Smith to write him up for this
incident but she refused and stated to Snelling, “I got
you now.” Id.
it is not clear from his petition, Snelling appears to
believe that only one person can be in possession of
contraband at a time. However, that is not the case under
IDOC policy. The IDOC defines possession as being “[o]n
one's person, in one's quarters, in one's locker
or under one's physical control. For the purposes of
these procedures, offenders are presumed to be responsible
for any property, prohibited property or contraband that is
located on their person, within their cell or within areas of
their housing, work, educational or vocational assignment
that are under their control. Areas under an offender's
control include, but are not limited to: the door track,
window ledge, ventilation unit, plumbing and the
offender's desk, cabinet/locker, shelving, storage area,
bed and bedding materials in his/her housing assignment and
the desk, cubicle, work station and locker in his/her work,
educational or vocational assignment.” The Disciplinary
Code for Adult Offenders. http://www.
AdultOffenders 6-1-2015.pdf. In other words, multiple
offenders may have control over a space, and multiple
offenders can be in possession of contraband. See
Hamilton v. O'Leary, 976 F.2d 341, 346 (7th Cir.
1992) (where contraband was present in a cell occupied by
four inmates, and there was a substantial likelihood that all
inmates were aware of the contraband, there was sufficient
evidence to support a disciplinary finding for possession).
Here, Snelling was aware that the waterbag containing
homemade alcohol was in his cell and concealed in the
property box because he initially admitted to Officer Smith
that the waterbag belonged to him. But even if Snelling's
assertion that Harvey owned the waterbag is true, it is
irrelevant to the question of Snelling's possession
because, according to IDOC policy, an offender does not need
to be the owner of the contraband in order to be guilty of
possession. As a final point, the court's review of the
record shows that Harvey's statement is contained in the
administrative record and the DHO considered it in reaching a
decision. McPherson, 188 F.3d at, 786 (courts are
not required to conduct an examination of the entire record,
independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the
evidence). Therefore, this first ground does not state a
basis for habeas corpus relief.
second ground, Snelling asserts his due process rights were
violated because prison officials did not test the liquid
contained in the waterbag to determine if it was alcohol. ECF
1 at 2. However, the prison's refusal to test the liquid
did not violate Snelling's due process rights.
“Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a
criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a
defendant in such proceedings does not apply.”
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 556. While prisoners have a right
to submit relevant exculpatory evidence, they do not have the
right to create evidence which does not already exist because
“[p]rison officials must have the necessary discretion
to keep the hearing within reasonable limits.” Id.
See also Freitas v. Auger, 837 F.2d 806, 812 n.13 (8th
Cir. 1988) (“Freitas was not entitled to a polygraph
examination . . . .”); Rhatigan v. Ward, 187
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