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New Jersey Prisoner Who Suggested Date to Nurse Has Disciplinary Action Reversed

In an unpublished ruling, the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court reversed a disciplinary action against a prisoner who had contacted a prison nurse to suggest a date.

Shakey Norman was found guilty by a disciplinary hearing officer at Northern State Prison of threatening another with physical harm. The charge was based on a letter Norman sent to the home of a prison nurse who said she “only knew [Norman] from [the] medication line.” In the May 2017 letter, Norman explained that he was attracted to the nurse and was being released in several months. He wrote, “maybe we can go out on a date.”

The nurse told prison officials about the letter, stating she had never given Norman her home address or otherwise authorized him to contact her. 

Originally, Norman was charged with violating prison rules for unauthorized contact with the public, but it was amended at the initial disciplinary hearing to threatening another with bodily harm. While Norman pleaded guilty to the charge, his counsel argued “the language in the letter was ambiguous and not threatening in nature,” and requested the charge be modified to undue familiarity with staff.

The hearing officer found Norman guilty and sentenced him to 181 days administrative segregation, 365 days loss of commutation time and 30 days loss of recreational privileges. Norman’s administrative appeals were denied.

On December 31, 2018, the Appellate Division agreed that “Norman’s unsolicited letter to the nurse [was] inappropriate and unwelcome,” and he was appropriately subjected to disciplinary action. However, the court found the DOC had failed to produce “substantial credible evidence” to support the charge that Norman “threatened the nurse with bodily injury or the commission of another offense.” It also rejected the argument that, “under the circumstances presented here, Norman’s purported guilty plea ... is sufficient to support the DOC’s determination [of guilt].”

As such, the Appellate Division reversed the disciplinary action. See: Norman v. New Jersey Department of Corrections, 2018 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2848. 

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Related legal case

Norman v. New Jersey Department of Corrections