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Isaac Diggins is an inmate of the New York Correctional Department


Isaac Diggins is an inmate of the New York Correctional Department. Mr. Diggins is serving a felony sentence for attempted murder. His crime was of a particularly serious nature. Mr. Diggins was convicted of handcuffing a man to the inside of a car, robbing him of all of his valuables and then shooting him eight times in the stomach and back. His victim survived the attack, but is paralyzed from the waist down.

While incarcerated, Mr. Diggins applied to participate in an industrial training program in which he would be granted temporary release from the institution to attend the training classes. On April 27, 1994, James Recore, the Director of New York Temporary Release Programs denied Mr. Diggins’ application based on the seriousness of his offenses.

Mr. Diggins appealed the denial of his training leave on March 28, 1994. On April 27th, 1994, The Department of Correctional Services denied Mr. Diggins’ appeal as being irrelevant in light of the fact that effective April 12 of 1994, the laws of New York State Correctional Services changed some of the rules applicable to his request.

In April of 1994, any person who is incarcerated under any crimes that fall into the categories of sex crimes or homicide crimes are no longer eligible for any form of temporary release. Mr. Diggins argued that the changes do not apply to him because Section 851(2) of the Correction Law lists the inmates who are not eligible to participate in the work release program as any person convicted of any sex offence or any person under sentence for any homicide offense and states that these inmates will not be allowed to participate in any work release program.

A work release program is defined as a program where the inmate is allowed to leave the premises of the institution for an amount of time that does not exceed fourteen hours in any day for the purpose of “on the job training or employment, or for any matter necessary to the furtherance of any such purposes.” Mr. Diggins contends that he is ineligible for a “work release program” but since the law does not mention an industrial training program that he does qualify for that program.

Mr. Diggins argues that the work release program is only one of several temporary release programs offered by the institution. He contends that while he is ineligible for a work release program that he is not specifically banned from participating in an industrial training program. The Court noted some of the additional definitions in the law. Industrial Training Leave for one is a privilege granted to an eligible inmate to leave the institution for a time not to go over fourteen hours. It is also defined as a program for the “purpose of participating in an industrial training program, or for any matter necessary to the furtherance of any such purpose.”

A temporary release program on the other hand does not just encompass work release programs; it also states that it refers to furlough programs, community services programs, industrial training leave, educational leave, and leaves of absence. These definitions illustrate that Mr. Diggins is correct about the wording of the law. While both industrial training leave and work release programs are closely worded, they are not the same thing in the eyes of the law. The Court also notes that while it tries to show a clear interpretation of statutes and regulations, a State agency can only be upheld if it has ruled according to law or regulations. The Judge stated that the authors of the Correctional law could have excluded persons convicted of homicide laws and sex crimes laws from industrial training leave if that had been their intention. The fact that they did not, does not allow room for anyone else to say that by excluding these groups from work release programs that they had intended to exclude them from all temporary release programs.

The Court ruled that in reference to the denial of Mr. Diggins to participate in the industrial training program was in error since the rule of law is that he would only be excluded from work release programs and not from temporary release programs. The Court rules that the matter of Mr. Diggins’ denial be thrown out and that Mr. Recore should review the case again to determine if Mr. Diggins should qualify for the program. If he is denied, it will have to be for a reason other than the fact that he is convicted of Attempted Murder in the second degree.

It is ruled by this Court that while one of the reasons given to Mr. Diggins as the reason that his request was denied was found to have been inconsistent with the law and thrown out, Mr. Diggins is still not allowed to participate in the industrial training program because of the prior ruling by Mr. Recore that was the heinous nature of his original offense.

It is unclear based on this transcript if Mr. Diggins was eventually allowed to participate in the industrial training program or not. This ruling is only relative to the applicability of Mr. Diggins’ conviction of a homicide crime preventing him from participating in any temporary release program; or, if Mr. Recore’s contention is correct that it was the intent of the law to exclude prisoners convicted of sex offenses and homicide offenses from all temporary release programs. At first glance, it is easy to make the assumption that the intent of the writers of the law was to exclude these groups from leaving the walls of the penitentiary even for short programs until they have earned parole. The fact of the matter is that it is not. According to GEORGE B. CERESIA, Jr., Justice who ruled on this case; we must believe that the authors of this law were clear on their wording as it relates to their intent. There is a distinct difference between the two terms as they are defined in the law itself. With that in mind, there can be no doubt that the intent of the law itself is not to exclude sex offenders and homicidal offenders from all temporary release programs. They are only excluded from work release programs. But just as this ruling proves, it is not the only element to be considered in denying a privilege to an inmate.

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