District judge grants habeas relief in inmate’s discipline

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has granted relief to an inmate after finding insufficient evidence to support his prison discipline over alleged disorderly conduct.

After being asked to leave the prison chapel with several other inmates for talking, Pendleton Correctional inmate Iqpal S. Kandhola was charged with disorderly conduct under the prison’s disciplinary rules. Kandhola’s discipline ultimately resulted in a guilty finding that added a previously suspended 30-day loss of earned credit time.

When both the facility head and the Indiana Department of Corrections’ final reviewing authority denied his appeal of the discipline, Kandhola sought – and was eventually granted – a petition for writ of habeas corpus relief.

“Kandhola interrupted a religious service by talking loudly with a group of inmates, but there is no evidence that he disrupted security in the chapel or elsewhere in the facility. The service was briefly paused while Chaplain Hinshaw checked their ID cards and again when they were escorted ‘without incident’ from the chapel,” Judge James R. Sweeney, II wrote for the district court.

“Neither Kandhola nor any of the other inmates in the chapel became aggressive or unruly. Correctional officers did not forcibly remove the inmates from the chapel or take other measures to maintain order. Although ‘movement was held’ elsewhere in the facility while Kandhola was transported from the chapel to his housing unit, there is no evidence that this caused a disruption to security,” it continued.

The district court also concluded that characterization of the record was unfair after observing the claim that Kandhola was arguing with the officers in the chapel and refused to leave when he was ordered to do so.

“Correctional officers spoke with the inmates for about twenty seconds before the inmates stood up to leave. Neither the officers nor the chaplain characterized this brief conversation as combative or argumentative, and there is no evidence that it disrupted the security of the chapel. The inmates all stood up within seconds of one another and left together in a single file line,” the district court noted. “Kandhola’s behavior may have been rude to the chaplain and his fellow congregants, but it did not disrupt security and cannot support a disciplinary conviction for disorderly conduct.”

The judge therefore vacated and rescinded Kandhola’s disciplinary conviction and imposed sanctions, granting his petition for habeas corpus relief. It likewise ordered that his earned credit time be immediately restored in Iqpal Kandhola v. Wendy Knight, 1:19-cv-03769.

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