Question: Can Xboxes Become Contraband?
Answer: Yes, If You Are In Prison. See Below.
Yisrayl is an offender incarcerated in Michigan City. In June 2016, Yisrayl began a 90 day probationary period as a PLUS Aide. In July, he purchased an Xbox 360 gaming console, two controllers, and twenty-five video games. Thereafter, Yisrayl’s position as a PLUS aide was terminated. He appealed the decision, but was unsuccessful. In November, the prison superintendent that only ICH offenders and offenders serving as PLUS Aides are authorized an Xbox. All other offenders are not authorized to have an Xbox or Xbox games. That same day, the facility’s offender special purchases department instructed correctional officer Reed to confiscate Yisrayl’s Xbox and accessories. Sgt. Reed did so, gave Yisrayl a confiscation slip that stated that he was “Not Allowed to have” the items, notified Yisrayl that he could challenge the seizure through the grievance process. In response, Yisrayl filed a small claims complaint and a contemporaneous motion for summary judgment against Sgt. Reed for confiscating his personal property … for no reason at all” in violation of Indiana law.
On March 10, 2017, the trial court set the matter for a trial. The trial court denied Yisrayl’s claim in replevin and dismissed his complaint, concluding that Yisrayl was allowed to own the Xbox, Xbox games, and Xbox controllers while he was on a 90 day probationary period as a PLUS Aide …. However, Xbox, Xbox games and Xbox controllers became prohibited after Yisrayl ended his probationary period due to reclassification of his duties. Yisrayl now appeals.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals noted that although those convicted of crimes or incarcerated in penal institutions awaiting trial do not forfeit all personal and property rights, their property interests may be specially defined and circumscribed by statute, regulation, or both. Court decisions have recognized an inherent right of prison administrators to manage prison facilities according to their discretion and professional expertise, such as by the imposition of reasonable restrictions on the type and amount of personal property inmates may possess and the conditions under which it may be used, and courts have been reluctant to intrude themselves on the day-to-day operations of penal facilities. Furthermore, states in maintaining prisons have a strong interest in preserving security, order, and discipline therein. Nevertheless, it is generally held that when inmates are afforded the opportunity, whether by “right” or by “privilege,” to possess personal property within prison confines, they enjoy a protected interest in it which cannot be infringed without due process of law. Thus, inmates’ rights must be balanced against or accommodated to the interests of the state.
Our legislature has conferred upon the DOC authority to determine what property an offender may possess. I.C. § 11–11–2–2.3 When a prison notifies an offender of what items (s)he may possess, all other property that is not contraband becomes “prohibited property.” “Contraband” is “property the possession of which is in violation of an Indiana or federal statute”; and “prohibited property” is “property other than contraband that the DOC does not permit a confined person to possess ….” “The DOC may conduct reasonable searches of its facilities and persons confined in them and may seize contraband or prohibited property.” When it seizes an offender’s property, the DOC “shall give … written notice of the seizure” including the date of seizure, identity of the seizing party, grounds for seizure, and the procedure for challenging the seizure.
Here, pursuant to the superintendent’s November 2016 directive, Xboxes and accessories became “prohibited property” for all offenders except PLUS Aides and ICH offenders; thus, when Yisrayl’s probationary period as a PLUS Aide ended in his termination, he was no longer among the offenders who were permitted to possess the items. 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. The record further reveals that as of April 4, 2017, Yisrayl’s Xbox and accessories remained housed in the special purchases department because Yisrayl had not asked anyone to retrieve them. In reviewing the designated materials, we conclude that no genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether an Xbox and accessories were “prohibited property” for Yisrayl, who was neither a PLUS Aide nor an ICH offender when Sgt. Reed seized the items. Sgt. Reed is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 98 N.E.3d 644