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Prison CP - December 2002

Daily Journal, Vineland, New Jersey, 5 December 2002

Appeal panel upholds sentence for spanking

By Joseph P. Smith
Staff Writer

TRENTON -- A review panel on Wednesday upheld a six-month suspension for a state prison guard accused of spanking an inmate during a strip search.

Senior Corrections Officer Craig Davis originally incurred a 15-day suspension without pay after the incident, which happened at South Woods State Prison on June 6, 2001.

After an appeal requested by Davis, state Office of Administrative Law Judge Israel D. Dubin ruled on Oct. 18 that the Department of Corrections disciplinary action was too lenient.

Dubin, who indicated defense testimony lacked credibility, ordered the six-month suspension.

Davis appealed again, this time to the Department of Personnel's autonomous Merit System Board. Members voted 3-0 to endorse Dubin's order.

A corrections department spokesman could not say when the new suspension may be imposed.

Colin Lynch, a Newark attorney who represented Davis, said his client can take the matter into civil court.

"I'm unable to comment in greater detail without reviewing the written decision of the Merit System Board," Lynch said. "However, Craig Davis has and continues to deny the allegations that were the subject of the appeal."

Neither Lynch nor Davis attended Wednesday's hearing in Trenton. A written decision is expected to take at least two weeks to publish, a board spokeswoman said.

According to testimony, the incident occurred between Davis and a member of a road-cleaning detail following his return to the prison.

Prisoner Jermaine Baskerville, 29, of Union County was naked and in the prescribed posture to receive a body cavity search.

Fellow inmates shouted that Baskerville would enjoy being slapped on his buttocks.

Davis, 30, then allegedly hit Baskerville.

The inmate, who stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, said the blow landed on his lower buttocks and between his legs. He reported considerable pain.

Davis, a Bridgeton resident, denied anything happened. He told a supervisor that the sound of a slap, which a number of inmates said they heard, might have been made by work boots being knocked together.

No other guards were in the room at the time.

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