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Name: In re Jenkins
Case #: S175242
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 10/28/2010

The prison inmate classification score which incorporates the inmates’ participation in a work, school, or vocational program as one of the relevant factors to be considered, is dependant on the inmates actual work performance and not merely his willingness to work. In this habeas petition, petitioner argued that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [the department] erred by denying him points in its classification procedure when he was willing to work but, through no fault of his own, was not assigned to a work program. Preliminarily, the Court found the appeal was timely. Where an order being appealed is not pronounced in open court, but instead is embodied in a writing, “the making of the order” does not occur until the court undertakes to communicate the substance of the order to the parties in a reasonable manner. Here, the sixty days for filing the appeal commenced as of the date the court mailed the written order to the parties four days after the order was signed. After finding the appeal timely, the Court then determined that the department had not acted arbitrarily in denying petitioner classification credits where he was willing to work but did not actually participate in a work program. The Legislature has directed the department to complete an initial classification of all inmates, as well as annual reclassification reviews, and has given the department broad authority in determining the factors to be considered. The classification score plays a significant role in determining where an inmate will be housed, with the higher score indicating a higher level of housing security. Among the factors that are included in the classification is an inmate’s work performance. Section 3375.4, subdivision (a)(3)(B) of the regulations unambiguously requires an inmate to actually participate in a work program to receive classification credit and the fact that the inmate is willing to work but cannot, through no fault of his own, is not a sufficient basis for receipt of credit. This does not constitute a due process violation since there is a rational basis for the denial of credits, i.e., satisfactory participation in a work program provides the department with a meaningful assessment of the inmate’s security risk in the housing context. Further, there is no equal protection violation resulting from the denial of credits for failure to work when willing to do so because neither a suspect class nor a fundamental interest is involved.