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Hurst v. Warden

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

July 9, 2019

MARK HURST, Petitioner,
WARDEN, Respondent.



         Indiana prison inmate Mark Hurst petitions for a writ of habeas corpus challenging a prison disciplinary sanction imposed in prison disciplinary case number ISR 18-06-0020. For the reasons explained in this Order, Mr. Hurst's habeas petition must be denied.

         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.Appx. 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 June 4, 2018, Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) Major M. Conyers wrote a Report of Conduct charging Mr. Hurst with rioting (encouraging, directing, commanding, or coercing others), a violation of the IDOC's Adult Disciplinary Code offense A-103. The Report of Conduct states:

On 6/4/18 at 10:05 AM I, Major M. Conyers was discussing issues with offenders that were refusing to voluntarily be restrained and escorted back to their cells. After some discussion some offenders complied. As discussion continued Offender Hurst, Mark #181299 told the other offenders on the recreation pad “give them a chance go ahead and cuff up.”

Dkt. 8-1.

         Mr. Hurst was notified of the charge on June 8, 2018, when he received the Screening Report. Dkt. 8-3. He pled not guilty to the charge. Id. Mr. Hurst requested three witnesses: Counselor Arnold, Sergeant Martz, and Captain Counceller. Id. Mr. Hurst also requested video evidence and copies of various IDOC policies. Id. Mr. Hurst wrote on the screening report, “Refusing to cuff up is different from rioting, I did NOT refuse to cuff-up.” Id.

         A hearing was held on June 11, 2018. Dkt. 8-5. There was no video of the incident, therefore Mr. Hurst did not receive video evidence. Id. The hearing officer denied Mr. Hurst's request for prison policies as irrelevant, noting that Mr. Hurst had requested policies on the chain-of-command. Id. The three requested witnesses gave written statements. Id.

         Sergeant Martz's statement was “On the above date at approx. 7:45 AM I Sgt. B. Martz gave Ofd. Hurst, Mark # 181299 the order to cuff-up & leave the G.C.H. Rec. Pad Ofd. Hurst refused this order & joined 13 other ofds. in a group demonstration protesting the running of G.C.H. Once Capt. Counceller & Major Conyers arrived on the Rec. Pad I returned inside G.C.H. to prepare for the arrival of the weapons team.” Dkt. 8-8 (spelling errors corrected).

         Captain H. Counceller provided two written statements. The first was that “On this date this offender was on the rec pad with other offenders refusing to come in until offender Hurst made a comment to the others, then they finally were restrained and placed in their cells.” Dkt. 8-7 (spelling errors corrected). The second statement was “On 06/4/18 at 10:05am I Capt Counceller was on the GCH recreation pad talking to offenders when I heard offender Hurst tell the other offenders to go ahead and be restrained and give them a chance to fix the issues. Then all of the offenders complied with orders to be restrained.” Dkt. 8-2 (spelling errors corrected).

         Counselor Arnold's statement was “I spoke with Offender Hurst while he was on the Rec. Pad. Offender Hurst stated to me that they was not leaving the Rec Pad till someone other than Lt. Simone came to talk to them so they could address issues that was not being taken care of.” Dkt. 8-6 (spelling errors corrected).

         Mr. Hurst's statement to the hearing officer was:

I have no choice but to say not guilty. If I personally didn't cuff up, that's refusing an order. The witness statements say I tried to diffuse the situation. I was wrong for not going in when they told me. I tried to get them to stop. My dad died and I had misplaced feelings. I think my actions were because of how I felt from my dad dying.

Dkt. 8-5.

         The hearing officer considered the staff reports, witness statements, and Mr. Hurst's statement and found Mr. Hurst guilty of the charged A-103 offense of rioting. Id. The sanctions imposed included the loss of 365 days of earned time credits and a demotion in credit earning class. Id. These sanctions were imposed due to the severity of the offense and Mr. Hurst's previous history of conduct reports. Id.

         On June 12, 2018, Mr. Hurst timely appealed to the Facility Head (Warden). Dkt. 8-9. He contended that (1) he had been denied 24-hour advance notice of the hearing; (2) he was denied a witness; (3) he had been denied an attempt to present evidence; and (4) he was denied a continuance of the hearing. Id. The Warden denied the appeal on July 31, 2018. Id. The denial was almost three weeks late under IDOC policy, as it should have been completed within thirty days. Police and Administrative Procedures, Indiana Department of Correction, No. 02-04-101, § X.C.3. (Available at Offenders 6-1-2015.pdf (last visited July 1, 2019)).

         While the facility appeal was pending, and one week after the Warden's thirty-day response period expired, on July 19, 2019, Mr. Hurst wrote to the IDOC Central Office about his disciplinary conviction. He told the Central Office that there was insufficient evidence to support the rioting charge and that his mental health played a part in the incident and should have been considered. Dkt. 8-10. This is the only attempt Mr. Hurst made to challenge the disciplinary conviction after his facility appeal. The Central Office's Legal Services Division responded to Mr. Hurst's correspondence, urging Mr. Hurst to complete a facility level appeal because it appeared ...

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