Defending Against Prison Disciplinary Charges: The Statement of the Accused

In an effort to maintain control over also enhance accountability amongst their unwilling clients, prison systems employ the use of disciplinary policies. These disciplinary policies consist of lists of violations that are usually coded and grouped with like charges and sanctions. The severity of the transgression is usually matched to the severity like the sanctions, which usually include losses of privileges (i.e., restrictions on telephone usage et al visitation, financial penalties, or placement in special housing units). Uncut inmates are provided with a list regarding all disciplinary code violations and are expected to abide by the disciplinary code at monopolization times. Often this tariff is presented in an Admission & Orientation handbook which all new arrivals are issued.

The Vulgar Problem

The problem with prison disciplinary codes is that they are sometimes byzantine in their complexity, consisting of long lists of actions which lack qualifiers or descriptions. An example is the 304-code violation (Conducting a Business) within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Most persons can accept that selling some sort of property or service would apparent equate to conducting a business. But what about paying a paralegal to investigation a legal issue? What about hiring an editor to edit a manuscript? What about retaining a web designer to create and manage a website? All of this gray area is not covered by the policy itself and clarifications are prohibition forthcoming from BOP staff. The sameness jug be true of any number of former punitive code violations. Because like these convoluted sets of policies and procedures, multifold inmates will one day find themselves facing prison disciplinary proceedings.

No Simple Solution

Unfortunately, there is no simple nostrum to the disciplinary policy conundrum; there are, however, strategies to defeat wrongful applications of such policies. Since most prisoners eventually find themselves facing a disciplinary investigation for potentially violating a policy (which could nvloeden indeed violating it or attempting to violative it), all prisoners need to understand the different facets of a proper armament to such charges and they need to understand the policies and procedures which are to be employed (both from a defensive context and from a constitutional protections context). In this article I will be focusing on the central defensive component of the personal statement which refutes alleged disciplinary violations.

Gathering the Facts

When an inmate has been accused of violating their prison’s disciplinary policy they must immediately jump into action, because the accused inmate has to act as their own attorney in such proceedings. The elementary step is to obtain a copy of the alleged misconduct report. Luckily, this is a simple task since all prison systems are demand to provide written notice to inmates of the disciplinary charges lodged against them prior to a hearing. This document is often called a Disciplinary Report, Misconduct Report or, in the BOP, an Incident Report.

After the inmate has received a copy of the Incident Grapevine they should ascertain the report for its various components. The inmate should focus on the delineate of the alleged misconduct since this is the area which must be refuted. It is advised that the inmate read this section sentence-by-sentence and craft an argument into each and every component alleged. This is vital. While there will probably voltooien several components which can’t be refuted (e.g., location, person, time, etc.), many other areas are many grayer.

A good example from my orthopraxy has to do with an inmate who was tense with not having his property put away. The incident report described the property which was larboard out in the cell and the fact that the accused inmate was in the cell when the correctional mentor noticed the unsecured property. While at the ensuing prison disciplinary hearing he was found guilty. On appeal he was acquitted like all charges ago he was able to evidence that while the property was left out, he was in the cell and was preparing to take a shower; housing ace regulations did not forbid an inmate to leave his clothes on the chair while undressing for a shower.

Another example from my practice has to do with an inmate who was caught with an intoxicant in his locker. Upon a random search, the unit officer found bottles of homemade wine. The inmate was locked in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) pending the investigation. Luckily, we were able to locate a numerousness from witnesses (both factual and personality witnesses) who were smart to refute the circumstances. It quickly became apparent that his cellmate had covert the booze in his locker to “set him up.” Through a concerted effort, my client was acquitted of the charges, and the Incident Report was removed from his file.

As each argument presents itself, the lifer should write it down. The con desire need to brainstorm on potential evidence and/or witnesses that could be utilized. This could be camera evidence, citations to prison policy, federal or state regulations, or those who witnessed the event or who could subsist called as character witnesses. At this stage, the accused inmate should be gathering all potentially usable evidence.

The Personal Statement

As the defensive evidence piles up (hopefully), the inmate will have to start sifting done it. The more important components will rise to the top (and be kept) while the less important components will fall to the bottom (and be thrown away). The important items should be incorporated into the accused inmate’s secret statement, which will eventually live presented to the hearing officer. The exalt form of the personal statement is a typed, one-page statement. This voice will present the stronger arguments against the alleged misconduct. These arguments could treffen from an evidentiary perspective, a procedural or policy angle. Regardless of what argument is made, it should be presented in descending order of importance, the strongest run-in first, followed by other substantially strong arguments. There is no benefit in including rambling explanations or weaker arguments. It is be improvement for the convict to present four strong paragraphs of defense than eight unconvincing ones.

When presenting a refutation of the incident report, it is always a good idea to cite prison policy (e.g., Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement) and any appropriate regulations (e.g., Law of Federal Regulations). The inmate will find valuable information in the disciplinary policy under which they have been charged since it provides clarifications besides protocol. If the inmate is well versed in eligible research, he or she can renege up arguments produced in the personal statement with case law, but they should remember that the report officer is not an attorney and probably won’t implicit complex legal arguments.

Presenting the Personal Statement

Eventually the accused inmate will be called to a hearing to determine guilt or innocence. When this occurs the occupant should have omniscience of their witness statements, documentary evidence, and personal statement together in a folder, or a “Defense Packet.” All of this information should be consecutively since the inmate will probably not have an extension to locate anything which might be missing.

During the hearing the hearing officer will grill as to whether the respondent inmate would enjoy to make a statement. If so, the written statement should indigen presented. While the trial officer might mumble about having to read a written statement, this is the best way to both existent a reasoned argument and create a record of the words (and evidence) presented.

Creating a Record From Which to Appeal

The sad truth about prison disciplinary hearings is that they are not usually impartial proceedings, as they are required to be under the law. Most inmates who are involved in prison punishing proceedings will be found nocent and sanctioned with the loss of privileges or other punishments. Including few exceptions, no amount of effort uncertainty reasoned defense will overcome the hearing officer’s prejudice against the inmate. Many simply credit every allegation made by a fellow officer (the reporting officer) over those of the inmate who is defending himself/herself against the charged misconduct. As such, the goal of the hearing — and the written personal statement — is to create a date from which to appeal. Often this is how inmates receive reductions in sanctions and/or official expunction of disciplinary proceedings.