- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Court of Appeals yesterday struck down the rules used to discipline inmates in state prisons, but delayed the effect of its ruling in order to give prison officials time to adopt new regulations.

The seven judges did not question the content of the rules, which govern how prisoners will be disciplined for infractions, ranging from acts of violence to failure to maintain personal cleanliness.

The unanimous ruling said the regulations are invalid because corrections officials failed to follow the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, a state law that sets out guidelines for all state agencies when adopting regulations.

Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the prison system, said lawyers were reviewing the ruling to determine its effect and what will need to be done.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, agencies planning to adopt regulations must submit them to the attorney general and a legislative committee for review, give at least 45 days public notice and submit the rules for publication in the Code of Maryland Regulations.

But the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services created seven volumes of rules without using the Administrative Procedure Act.

Yesterday’s ruling was the result of a handwritten complaint filed in 2002 by Richard L. Massey Jr., then an inmate at the Western Correctional Institution in Allegany County.

Massey said that the regulations were unlawful and that he was “being punished, i.e. serving additional time, as a result.”

The rules involved in Massey’s complaint provide a wide range of punishments from a simple reprimand to loss of “good time” credits that inmates can accumulate to shorten their prison sentences.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals focused on just three sections of the regulations that deal with discipline and with procedures for handling complaints from inmates.

The court advised prison officials to examine all their rules to determine, “at least from their perspective, whether, in light of this opinion, they need to be adopted in the form of regulations.”

The court noted that state officials do not have to follow the Administrative Procedure Act to adopt guidelines for managing their agencies.

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