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COA upholds judgment for DOC correctional officer

March 28, 2018

An Indiana correctional officer is entitled to summary judgment on an offender’s small claims complaint, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled after determining the correctional officer properly confiscated “prohibited property” from the offender.

In Ben Yisrayl v. Sgt. Reed, 46A03-1706-SC-1524, Chijioke Bomani Ben Yisrayl began a 90-day probation period as a PLUS — Purposeful Living Units Serve — aide in the Indiana State Prison and subsequently purchased an Xbox 360 and accessories, which PLUS aides were permitted to have. However, after his position was terminated, Department of Correction Sgt. Reed confiscated the game system and its accessories and notified Yisrayl that he could challenge the seizure through the offender grievance process.

Instead, Yisrayl filed a small claims action against Reed in January 2017, alleging Reed had confiscated his property “for no reason at all.” The LaPorte Superior Court denied and dismissed Yisrayl’s claim in replevin after a trial by affidavit, citing to the prison policy that only PLUS aides could have the gaming system.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Wednesday, with Judge Michael Barnes writing that pursuant to a November 2016 directive from the prison superintendent, Xboxes and related accessories were “prohibited property” unless an offender was a PLUS aide.

“Sgt. Reed seized the Xbox and accessories in accordance with Indiana Code Section 11-11-2-4, giving Yisrayl written notice of the grounds of the seizure and advising him of the facility’s grievance procedure,” Barnes wrote. “… In reviewing the designated materials, we conclude that no genuine issue of material facts exists as to whether an Xbox and accessories were ‘prohibited property’ for Yisrayl.”

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