Discipline without due process

Austin v. Pazera, No. 14-2574 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2015).

Timothy Austin, an inmate at an Indiana prison, had been assigned to do construction and renovation work in a crawl space. He worked in that crawl space for one day. Soon after, a prison guard found tobacco and cigarette papers in the crawl space. Austin was punished for this infraction by losing good-time credit, being given extra work duty, and being barred from the prison commissary for about a month. Austin filed a habeas corpus petition (a writ of habeas corpus being the correct remedy for a loss of good-time credit).

The problem with this result, as the Seventh Circuit points out, is that four other inmates also had access to the crawl space during the day that Austin worked there. “It seems odd, to say the least, that someone should be punished where there is an 80 percent probability that he is innocent.” Austin was disciplined without due process, so his habeas corpus petition must be granted.