Can a Prisoner Appeal Decisions by Internal Prison Disciplinary Tribunals ?
In Bronson v. Cent. Office Review Comm., 554 Pa. 317, 721 A.2d 357 (1998) the Supreme Court addressed confiscation of inmate civilian clothing.
The Court held the Commonwealth Court does not have appellate jurisdiction over inmate appeals of decisions by intra-prison disciplinary tribunals, such as grievance and misconduct appeals.
The Court said:
Internal prison operations are more properly left to the legislative and executive branches, and . . . prison officials must be allowed to exercise their judgment in the execution of policies necessary to preserve order and maintain security free from judicial interference. See Robson v. Biester, 53 Pa. Commw. 587, 420 A.2d 9, 12 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S. Ct. 1861, 60 L. Ed.2d 447 (1979)).
The Court agreed.
Unlike the criminal trial and appeals process where a defendant is accorded the full spectrum of rights and protections guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions, and which is necessarily within the ambit of the judiciary, the procedures for pursuing inmate grievances and misconduct appeals are a matter of internal prison administration and the "full panoply of rights due a defendant in a criminal prosecution is not necessary in a prison disciplinary proceeding. . . ." Robson, 420 A.2d at 12 (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 41 L. Ed.2d 935 (1974)). Id. at 321, 721 A.2d at 358-59.
Also, the Supreme Court held the Commonwealth Court usually does not have original jurisdiction over an inmate's petition for review after a grievance proceeding.
The Court held that original jurisdiction was not available "in a case not involving constitutional rights not limited by the DOC." Id. at 323, 721 A.2d at 359.
Noting that prison inmates do not enjoy the same level of constitutional protections afforded to non-incarcerated citizens, the Court concluded that an attempt to color the confiscation as a constitutional deprivation would fail.
"Unless 'an inmate can identify a personal or property interest . . . not limited by DOC regulations and which has been affected by a final decision of the department' the decision is not an adjudication subject to the court's review." Id. at 323, 721 A.2d at 359.