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Prisoners challenging DOC’s deduction of prison funds to pay court obligations must exhaust administrative remedies

State v. Marquis T. Williams, 2018 WI App 20; case activity (including briefs)

Williams, a prison inmate, objected to DOC deducting funds from his prison account to pay the restitution ordered in his criminal case. He asked the sentencing judge to order DOC to stop but the sentencing judge declined. The court of appeals affirms, holding the sentencing court isn’t competent to address that issue. Instead, Williams has to exhaust his administrative remedies using the inmate complaint review system (ICRS) and, if that fails, he can bring a certiorari action in circuit court.

The court relies on State v. Minniecheske, 223 Wis. 2d 493, 500, 590 N.W.2d 17 (Ct. App. 1998), which held that a sentencing court couldn’t order the state to reimburse a defendant for money unlawfully collected under a restitution order because that was “not necessary to resolve the criminal matter before the circuit court.”

¶4     Applying the reasoning of the Minniecheske court, we conclude that the circuit court, acting as the sentencing court, lacks the competency to address an allegedly improper disbursement of funds by the DOC. Once an inmate is sentenced to prison, he or she is under the control of the executive branch and must address his or her objections to the internal operating procedures of the DOC through the ICRS, Wis. Admin. Code ch. DOC 310, and then, if necessary, by writ of certiorari to the circuit court. Cf. State ex rel. Curtis v. Litscher, 2002 WI App 172, ¶12, 256 Wis. 2d 787, 650 N.W.2d 43 (“A decision may be reviewed by common law certiorari when no legislative provision establishes how review may be had. Certiorari is the well-established mode of judicial review for inmates of Wisconsin prisons who seek to challenge prison disciplinary decisions.” (citation omitted)).

Because Williams didn’t file a complaint in accordance with the ICRS, the circuit court properly denied his motion.

On the way to this conclusion the court summarily rejects Williams’s contention that DOC couldn’t collect restitution from him because he was sentenced before the enactment of 2015 Wis. Act 355, which amended § 301.32(1) and created  § 973.20(11)(c) to provide that DOC can collect restitution from inmate funds. Act 355 codified previous case law allowing DOC to collect restitution from inmates. State v. Greene, 2008 WI App 100, ¶12, 313 Wis. 2d 211, 756 N.W.2d 411; State v. Baker, 2001 WI App 100, ¶¶17-19, 243 Wis. 2d 77, 626 N.W.2d 862. Thus, the court concludes, Act 355 wasn’t being applied to Williams at all. (¶2 & n.2).

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