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Collins v. Warden

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 17, 2019

MELISSA K. COLLINS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE

         The petition of Melissa Collins for a writ of habeas corpus challenges a prison disciplinary proceeding identified as number IWP 18-02-0123. For the reasons explained in this Order, Ms. Collins's petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied.

         Discussion

         A. Overview

         Prisoners in Indiana custody may not be deprived of good-time credits or of credit-earning class without due process. Ellison v. Zatecky, 820 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2016); Scruggs v. Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Rhoiney v. Neal, 723 Fed. App'x 347, 348 (7th Cir. 2018). The due process requirement is satisfied with: 1) the issuance of at least 24 hours advance written notice of the charge; 2) a limited opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence to an impartial decision-maker; 3) a written statement articulating the reasons for the disciplinary action and the evidence justifying it; and 4) “some evidence in the record” to support the finding of guilt. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-67 (1974).

         B. The Disciplinary Proceeding

         On February 20, 2018, Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Investigator Bonnie Russell filed a Report of Conduct that charged Ms. Collins with Engaging in Unauthorized Financial Transaction, a violation of the IDOC Adult Disciplinary Process offense B-220. Dkt. 9-1.

         The Conduct Report provides:

On 2/1/18 the investigations office, Investigator Bonnie Russell received a letter to a Melissa Collins 216933 who is currently housed at IWP. In the letter it contained a letter from an Attorney written for another offender, Shea Terry 260532. After reviewing the letter, evidence in the case, and interviewing offender it was determined offender Melissa Collins was engaging in unauthorized financial transactions by writing and submitting a Request for Remittance from another offender's account, rather [sic] or not the offender allowed her to do this or not. See Report of Investigation of Incident for more detail.

Dkt. 9-1.

         Ms. Collins was notified of the charge on February 23, 2018. Dkt. 9-4. She pled not guilty, requested a lay advocate, two witnesses, and camera footage. Id.

         The hearing officer (“DHO”) conducted the disciplinary hearing on March 13, 2018. Dkt. 9-7. Ms. Collins's comment was, “Ignorance is not an excuse. I didn't tell her not to do it. I beg you please just give me a chance.” Id. The video summary provides: “Camera footage has no bearing in this case. Conduct report was written based on I&I investigation. Offender Collins, Melissa # 216933 did not state to this writer what she wants the footage to show. The above offender also did not provide the date and time of video footage to be reviewed.” Dkt. 9-8. Erin Bryant, one of Ms. Collins's requested witnesses, gave a written statement that “Ms. Collins informed me . . . that Shenae Terry offered to provide her financial means for a lawyer. Collins shared that she accepted the money . . . .” Dkt. 9-9. Ms. Collins's other requested witness, Mr. Medvescek, also provided a written statement that “Offender Collins states that she was not aware it was against policy to accept money from an offender.” Dkt. 9-10.

         The DHO considered staff reports, Ms. Collins's statement, and the Report of Investigation, dkt. 9-2, and found Ms. Collins guilty of the offense. Dkt. 9-7. The DHO wrote that “Offender did admit to discussing the financial transaction with Offender. The money was sent in order to assist with Collins modification by Terry, which is a financial ...


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