Anthony Mann has not been an ideal inmate at the Special Management Unit in the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina. Convicted of
Prison Disciplinary Proceedings in the Federal Bureau of Prisons: An Interview with Christopher Zoukis
By Kyla Elizabeth Sentes The Federal Bureau of Prisons houses 206,760 prisoners in 193 federal institutions and 14 private contract facilities. While the exact figures
By Christopher Zoukis
In American prisons, inmates are held to specific codes of conduct. In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, if prisoners violate these codes of conduct, they are subject to disciplinary proceedings which can result in the loss of telephone, visitation, commissary, and email privileges, loss of good conduct time, confinement to solitary confinement, or even a disciplinary transfer to an institution of higher security. With enough disciplinary infractions, a prisoner’s quality of life can deteriorate, and in a hurry.
This article contains seven steps to a successful prison disciplinary outcome. By following these seven steps, which I regularly advise my incarcerated clients through https://www.prisonerresource.com/ of, inmates can give themselves the best chance of a positive outcome when faced with accusations of disciplinary infractions.
Step One: Remain Silent
When issued an incident report, prisoners should remain silent. Quiet. There is no mitigation to be had. Any admissions will just be used as additional incriminating evidence, which will then be reported — correctly or not — as being an admission of guilt. At this stage in the game, everything becomes an uphill battle since the record will reflect that the inmate admitted to the charges. By remaining silent, inmates accused of violating prison codes of conduct can greatly improve their chances of successfully defending themselves against allegations of misconduct.
Step Two: Present Documentary Evidence
In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates accused of misconduct have the right to present documentary evidence on their behalf. They should, and assertively so. Anything that can be used to challenge the official account of wrongdoing should be presented. This could consist of security camera recordings, telephone recordings, guard log books, a commissary receipt, property logs, letters, official memorandums, or any other shred of evidence that can cast doubt as to the incident report’s validity.
By Matt Clarke
In 2009, former Harris County, Texas state district judge Woodrow “Woody” Densen was caught on surveillance video keying a neighbor’s car, causing significant damage. The video received widespread media coverage. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief and agreed to pay a $1,500 fine and over $6,000 in restitution. [See: PLN, June 2010, p.50; Aug. 2009, p.1].
Six months later, in October 2010, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) imposed disciplinary sanctions on Judge Densen: It gave him a public warning.
The slap on the wrist that Densen received was infinitely more discipline than the SCJC meted out to the vast majority of judges who were the subject of complaints. Less than 4% of the 1,192 complaints against judges received by the SCJC in fiscal year (FY) 2011 resulted in any disciplinary action.
For example, on August 4, 2011, PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann filed a complaint with the SCJC against Angelina County Judge Derek C. Flournoy, related to comments made by Judge Flournoy in a criminal case. Following a sentencing hearing, Flournoy was quoted in a news report as saying to the defendant, Marco Sauceda, “I haven’t heard from you and I have no idea why you didn’t speak [at the sentencing hearing]. That causes me some trouble.”
According to Friedmann’s complaint, “In drawing a negative inference from Mr. Sauceda’s decision not to testify or speak, Judge Flournoy ran afoul of over four decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence that prohibits courts from penalizing or drawing negative inferences when defendants exercise their Constitutional right not to speak or testify.” The complaint noted that the Supreme Court had specifically addressed this issue in Mitchell v. United States, 526 U.S. 314, 330 (1999), and the Texas Court of Appeals had acknowledged that defendants have a right to remain silent during sentencing hearings in Lucero v. State, 91 S.W.3d 814, 816 (Tex. App. 2002).
Regardless, the SCJC declined to take any disciplinary action against Judge Flournoy – a typical outcome for most complaints filed against Texas judges.
By Christopher Zoukis
Prisoners incarcerated in both federal and state correctional systems are subject to prison disciplinary codes of conduct through which they can be sanctioned for committing disciplinary code violations. Often these disciplinary processes are nothing more than a proverbial kangaroo court. The prisoner is charged with misconduct, issued an incident report (sometimes called a “Disciplinary Report” or informally known as a “Ticket” or a “Shot”), brought before a hearing body consisting of the reporting officer’s peers, found guilty of the alleged prison disciplinary code violation(s), and sanctioned for the alleged conduct. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration as the process truly is this simple, straightforward and unfortunate. There are no true judges and juries present, only a colleague or two of the reporting officers who make the guilty/not guilty determination.
With the understanding that almost every prisoner who is charged with disciplinary misconduct will be found guilty of the alleged disciplinary code violation, it is vital for prisoners to know what to do when such issues arise. They must know what steps to take before even being issued the incident report for the alleged disciplinary code violation and how to intelligently proceed through the various hearings and stages in the disciplinary process. This article strives to provide a crash course in what to do when faced with a prison disciplinary proceeding and how to slant the odds in the accused’s favor. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that prisoners have a Due Process Clause right to a fair tribunal of disciplinary matters, vesting them with certain rights, including the right to written notice of a hearing, the right to an impartial tribunal, the right to present evidence, and a written statement of the evidence and findings made at the hearing. Each prisoner should be aware of these rights and should exercise them whenever they are facing such misconduct allegations.
Tip One: Remain Silent When Charged With Inmate Misconduct
The most important rule of thumb when faced with a prison disciplinary proceeding is to remain silent. As with traditional law enforcement, prison guards investigating inmate misconduct are not the prisoner’s friends. They are not there to search for the truth. They are not impartial fact finders: their job is simply to gather evidence for a conviction of the alleged misconduct. The best way to handle such prison guards is to remain silent or to only point out facts which support an acquittal. Most prisoners acknowledge some amount of guilt when speaking with such prison investigators and really hurt their chances at a favorable outcome by doing so. By remaining silent, this potentially crippling problem can be sidestepped in its entirety. A mere “I wish to remain silent,” “I have nothing to say at this point in time,” or “I reserve the right to remain silent” is all that needs to be said when confronted with prison disciplinary proceedings.
Prison disciplinary proceedings are a way of life for those incarcerated in America’s prisons. This is because the various departments of corrections have a smorgasbord of applicable infractions that, unfortunately, are often applied inconsistently. Thus, the majority of inmates will eventually find themselves the subject of a prison discipline proceeding. When this occurs, they need to know what to do and how to defend themselves. Locating witnesses and obtaining effective written witness statements are vital components of an effective defensive strategy.
In an effort to maintain control over and enhance accountability amongst their unwilling clients, prison systems employ the use of disciplinary policies. These disciplinary policies
Disciplinary infractions are a fact of life for inmates incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Simply put, those incarcerated in federal prison will likely
As part of my role as a prison litigator and advocate, I review a number of Incident Reports and Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) Reports every