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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Ricky Edwards, #191721 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Ricky Edwards, #191721

South Carolina Department of Corrections



Grievance No. BRCI 0157-03

I. Statement of the Case

This matter is an appeal by Ricky Edwards, #191721 (Edwards) of a final decision in a non-collateral or administrative matter issued by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC). Thus, appellate review jurisdiction vests in the Administrative Law Court (ALC). Slezak v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 361 S.C. 327, 605 S.E.2d 506 (2004).

Appeals that do not implicate an inmate's state-created liberty or property interest may be summarily decided. Id.("We hold that the [ALC] has jurisdiction over all properly perfected inmate appeals, but clarify that it may summarily decide those appeals that do not implicate an inmate's state-created liberty or property interest."). Such is the case here.

II. Analysis

Here, Edwards presents a claim that amounts to a complaint challenging custody status. When reviewing a DOC custody decision, the Court sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 377, 527 S.E.2d at 754. Thus, the review is confined to the record Id. 527 S.E.2d at 750. In making the review, the ALJ must be mindful that a traditional "hands off" approach exists on discretionary decisions resulting from internal prison policies. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 382, 527 S.E.2d at 757; see also Pruitt v. State, 274 S.C. 565, 266 S.E.2d 779 (1980) (stating the traditional "hands off" approach of South Carolina courts regarding internal prison policy).

However, such a deferential standard of review does not preclude a reversal of the DOC determination. Rather, the ALJ conducts a review of DOC's actions to ensure the inmate grievance is addressed in a fair, reasonable, and efficient manner. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 383, 527 S.E.2d at 757. Primarily, two potential grounds exist warranting an alteration to a custody classification: due process and arbitrary action

A. Due Process

An inmate does not have a protected liberty interest in his custody status under the Due Process clause of its own force. Slezak v. Evatt, 21 F.3d 590 (4th Cir. 1994). However, a state-created liberty interest can exist in a custody status if the status "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995).

Here, Edwards has no protected liberty interest as to a custody status since the custody assigned "does not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a State might conceivably create a liberty interest." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486. Rather, advancement and classification of custody status is a common practice within a prison setting.

B. Arbitrary Decision

However, even if a protected liberty interest is not implicated, our Supreme Court has held that an inmate may challenge a custody status if "prison officials have acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or from personal bias" in determining his custody status. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 381, 527 S.E.2d at 756 (citing Crowe v. Leeks, 273 S.C. 763, 259 S.E.2d 614 (1979)).

Here, DOC has restricted the custody status of Edwards since Edwards has a record of a Class 1 Escape. The basis for that decision is that Edwards jumped from a Horry County Detention Center van while the van was in route to a DOC facility. However, due to Edwards' mental problems, he was deemed not culpable for disciplinary charges. But, the fact that the event occurred cannot be dismissed. Thus, a custody status consistent with the escape event has caused DOC to reach its custody classification. Therefore, the DOC decision involves a "good faith exercise of the discretionary power of the prison officials in the maintenance of order, discipline, and security among the prison population." Crowe, 273 S.C. at 764, 259 S.E.2d at 615. Accordingly, the DOC decision will not be disturbed on appeal.

III. Conclusion

The decision entered below by DOC against Ricky Edwards, #191721 is AFFIRMED.




Administrative Law Judge

Dated: January 18, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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