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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Carlos Dennison #295321 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Carlos Dennison #295321

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Court (ALC) pursuant to the appeal of Carlos Dennison, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (DOC or Department). Appellant Dennison was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 2.01, The Use, Possession, or Distilling and/or Brewing of any Alcoholic Beverage, after pleading not guilty to the charge. As a result of his conviction, the Appellant lost sixty (60) days of “good-time” credit. Brown filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department’s final decision on November 29, 2004. On December 17, 2004, the Appellant filed this appeal with the Court.


On April 16, 2004, Lieutenant Lewis and Sergeant Jefferson searched Appellant’s room and locker at Ridgeland Correctional Institution. During that search, they found a container in two green duffle bags in the Appellant’s locker filled with approximately eight to ten gallons of liquid that smelled like alcohol. Based upon the smell, Lieutenant Lewis and Sergeant Jefferson determined that the liquid was “homemade wine.” Therefore, Lieutenant Lewis completed an Incident Report charging the Appellant with violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 2.01. The Appellant received written notice of the charges on April 20, 2004.

On April 27, 2004, a Major Disciplinary Hearing was held before a Department Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) concerning the Appellant's charge of The Use, Possession, or Distilling and/or Brewing of any Alcoholic Beverage. At the Appellant’s request, he was provided a counsel substitute. Additionally, at his request, Lieutenant Lewis was present at the hearing. During the hearing, the DHO read a narrative of Lieutenant Lewis’ Incident Report into the Record and received testimony from the Appellant and Lieutenant Lewis as evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO found the Appellant guilty of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 2.01 and sanctioned him with the loss of sixty (60) days of good-time credit. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record which documented the DHO’s findings.

The Appellant filed a grievance appealing his conviction of violating Section 2.01. After reviewing his allegation, the Warden denied the Appellant’s grievance. He appealed the Warden’s decision asking that the Department reverse his loss of “good-time” credits. The Department denied his grievance, stating that the evidence supported the conviction and that the sanction imposed was appropriate for the violation that the Appellant committed. This appeal followed. In his Appeal Brief, the Appellant argues that the evidence failed to establish that he committed the above infraction.


The Court’s jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). The Court’s appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to state created liberty interests typically involving: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which an inmate has received punishment in a major disciplinary hearing as a result of a serious rule violation. Id. Footnote

When reviewing the Department’s decisions in inmate grievance matters, the Court sits in an appellate capacity. Id. at 756. Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the Record presented. An Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency “as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact.” S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2003). Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not reverse or modify an agency’s decision unless substantial rights of the Appellant have been prejudiced because the decision is clearly erroneous in view of the substantial evidence on the whole Record, arbitrary or affected by an error of law. See Section 1-23-380(A)(6); See also Marietta Garage, Inc. v. South Carolina Dept. of Public Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605 (Ct. App. 1999); South Carolina Dept. of Labor, Licensing and Regulation v. Girgis, 332 S.C. 162, 503 S.E.2d 490 (Ct. App. 1998). “‘Substantial evidence’ is not a mere scintilla of evidence nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of the case, but is evidence which, considering the Record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the administrative agency reached or must have reached in order to justify its action.” Lark v. Bi-Lo, 276 S.C. 130, 135, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981). Accordingly, the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency’s finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Grant v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 319 S.C. 348, 461 S.E.2d 388 (1995).

Additionally, in Superintendent, Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 456, 105 S.Ct. 2768 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Moreover, in Al-Shabazz, the Court underscored that since prison officials are in the best position to decide inmate disciplinary matters, the Courts and therefore this tribunal adhere to a “hands off” approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. Al-Shabazz 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 discipline and policy).

In this case, the Appellant alleges that the Department should not have revoked his accrued good time. Inmates have a protected liberty interest in their earned statutory good-time credits under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, when, as here, the Department revokes an inmate’s good-time credits as punishment in a “major disciplinary hearing” involving “more serious rule violations,” prison officials must provide that inmate with “minimal due process.” Al-Shabazz at 750. Consequently, specific administrative procedures must be followed before depriving an inmate of statutorily granted earned credit, including adequate advance notice of the charges, adequate opportunity for a hearing in which the inmate can present witnesses and documentary evidence, and an impartial hearing officer who prepares a written statement of all the evidence presented and the reasons for his decision. Id. at 751 (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974)).


Due Process

I find that the Appellant was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that the Appellant received written notice of the charges against him in excess of twenty-four (24) hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial Disciplinary Hearing Officer. At the hearing, the Appellant was given the opportunity to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront his accuser. In addition, although not constitutionally required, the Appellant was afforded a counsel substitute who assisted him in his defense. After the DHO determined that the Appellant was guilty of the charged offense, he prepared a written report stating the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding the Appellant guilty of the disciplinary infraction. Finally, as evinced here, the Appellant was permitted to appeal the DHO’s decision through the inmate grievance process.

Substantial Evidence

The Appellant contends that the evidence did not prove that the homemade wine found by Lieutenant Lewis and Sergeant Jefferson was in his locker or duffel bag. He also vaguely challenged whether the bucket could contain ten gallons of liquid. A Code 2.01 violation is: “The Use, Possession, or Distilling and/or Brewing of any Alcoholic Beverage: Any inmate acting under the influence, or in possession of alcohol or alcoholic beverage or other substance which, when ingested, creates altered states of physical or mental activity.”

The Record clearly supports the facts recited in the “Background” portion of this Order. Furthermore, though the Appellant challenged ownership of the homemade wine, Lieutenant Lewis specifically testified that the bucket of wine was in the Appellant’s locker and that the Appellant admitted to owning the bucket when it was found. He also explained that after discovering the bucket in the Appellant’s locker, he went to the cafeteria and confirmed that the bucket could contain between eight to ten gallons of liquid. Footnote

“The fact finder is imbued with broad discretion in determining credibility or believability of witnesses.” Small v. Pioneer Machinery, Inc., 329 S.C. 448, 465, 494 S.E.2d 835, 843 (Ct. App. 1997). When viewed in light of the DHO’s discretion, the Record sufficiently establishes that the Appellant possessed an alcoholic beverage. Accordingly, I find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 2.01, The Use, Possession, or Distilling and/or Brewing of any Alcoholic Beverage.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the appeal of the Appellant is DISMISSED and the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED;



Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

April 20, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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