Prisoners Due Process Rights In New Jersey

Although prisoners are not entitled to the same level of due process rights as free persons, they are not entirely stripped of constitutional protections once they enter the prison. McDonald v. Pinchak, 139 N.J. 188, 194, 652 A.2d 700 (1995). However, prisoners are not entitled to the same due process rights as those guaranteed persons charged with the commission of a crime. Ibid. Accordingly, constitutional rights may be abridged to the extent necessary to accommodate the institutional needs and objectives of prisons. Ibid. Nevertheless, prisoners are entitled to procedural fairness, however informal, in the imposition of prison discipline. Ibid. Among these rights is a limited right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. Id. at 529-30, 341 A.2d 629; N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.14. Moreover, the inmate is entitled to a written statement of the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the sanctions imposed. Avant, supra, 67 N.J. at 533, 341 A.2d 629; N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15. The special procedural due process requirements articulated in Avant, have been recognized by the Department in the promulgation of a comprehensive set of regulations dealing with inmate discipline, N.J.A.C. 10A:4-1.1 to -11.9. Our Supreme Court has held that the current regulations strike the proper balance between the security concerns of the prison, the need for swift and fair discipline, and the due-process rights of the inmates. McDonald v. Pinchak, supra, 139 N.J. at 202, 652 A.2d 700. Prison disciplinary hearings are not criminal prosecutions and, accordingly, the full panoply of constitutional rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply. Avant v. Clifford, 67 N.J. 496, 522, 341 A.2d 629 (1975).