Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-2-111, facilities shall maintain written policies and procedures governing disciplinary actions, administrative actions, and criminal offenses. Each County is required to have a disciplinary review board. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.08 (4).
Facilities shall maintain policies and procedures to insure that written or electronic facility rules along with the corresponding range of sanctions for rule violations and disciplinary procedures to be followed shall be provided to each inmate during the booking process prior to being placed into general population. A record shall be maintained of this transaction. Socially, mentally, or physically impaired inmates shall be assisted by facility employees in understanding the rules. The rules and regulations shall be available for viewing during confinement and shall be translated into those languages spoken by a significant number of inmates. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.08 (2).
Disciplinary reports shall be prepared by facility employees and must include, but are not limited to, the following information:
(a) Names of persons involved;
(b) Description of the incident;
(c) Specific rule(s) violated;
(d) Employee or inmate witnesses;
(e) Any immediate action taken, including use of force; and,
(f) Reporting staff member’s signature, date and time report is made.
The written policy must provide prisoners with a hearing prior to segregation, except in cases where the security of the facility is threatened as determined by the jail administrator or his or her designee. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.08 (6).
Facilities shall maintain written policies and procedures to provide for disciplinary hearings, which shall be presided over by a disciplinary board or impartial disciplinary officer, to be held in cases of alleged violations of inmate conduct rules. Hearings shall include the following administrative due process guarantees:
(a) Inmates shall receive written notice of charges and time of hearing;
(b) The inmate shall be allowed time, not less than twenty-four (24) hours, to prepare for appearance before an impartial officer or board;
(c) The inmate shall have the right to call and cross examine witnesses and present evidence in his own defense, when permitting him to do so will not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals;
(d) An inmate may be excluded during testimony. An inmate’s absence or exclusion shall be documented;
(e) The reasons for any limitations placed on testimony or witnesses shall be stated in writing by the hearing officer;
(f) There must be a written statement by the fact finders to include, at a minimum, evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action; and,
(g) Appeals process is available.
For segregated prisoners, a disciplinary hearing must be held within 72 hours of placement in segregation, excluding holidays, weekends and emergencies, and for other prisoners a disciplinary hearing must be held within seven days of the write-up. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.08 (7).
The prisoner must receive a copy of the disciplinary decision and a copy must be kept in the prisoner's record. The written policy and procedure must provide that disciplinary reports are removed from all files on prisoners found not guilty of an alleged violation. Rules of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Rule 1400-1-.08 (8) and Rule 1400-1-.08 (9).
“The courts accord wide-ranging deference to correction officials in adopting and administering policies that, in the officials' judgment, are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.” Utley v. Tennessee Dept. of Correction, 118 S.W.3d 705, 713 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003) (citations omitted).
The United States Supreme Court has held that state prisoners do not have a liberty interest in the procedural rights created by internal prison disciplinary regulations unless the punishment they receive "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995). In other words, Sandin v. Conner holds that due process is not necessary as long as the prisoner's punishment is not disproportionate to the rigors of prison life.
An inmate has no liberty interest in remaining free of disciplinary or administrative segregation, as such segregation does not impose an "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Gore v. Tennessee Dept. of Correction, 132 S.W.3d 369, 371-372 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003), citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2301, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995) (holding that a punishment of 30 days segregation was not an atypical, significant deprivation). See also Willis v. TDOC, 2002 WL 1189730 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002) (finding that punitive segregation was not an atypical, significant deprivation).
Denial of due process claims are analyzed using a two-part inquiry. “The first question is whether the [inmate] has identified a ‘liberty’ or ‘property’ interest that is entitled to protection by the Due Process Clause. An affirmative answer to this question requires the consideration of a second question – what process is due under the particular circumstances? The answer to the second question is situational because due process is a flexible concept that calls for only those procedural protections that the particular situation demands.” Jeffries v. Tennessee Dept. of Correction, 108 S.W.3d 862, 870 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002). “Accordingly, the fate of the due process claims of a prisoner seeking judicial review of internal disciplinary proceedings depends upon the punishment the prisoner received.” Id. at 871.
Tennessee cases addressing petitions filed by prisoners seeking judicial review of prison disciplinary proceedings typically hold that placement in maximum security, the loss of good time credits, the loss of a prison job, and small fines, either separately or in combination, do not trigger due process concerns because the punishments do not impose an atypical and significant hardship on the prisoner in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Id., citing cases.