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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

James M. Tison #249096 vs. DOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

James M. Tison #249096

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD or Division) pursuant to the appeal of James M. Tison, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (Department). On March 26, 2001, Tison filed a grievance with the Department, essentially alleging that his max-out date had been miscalculated. Tison received the Department’s final decision on or about May 18, 2001. On May 24, 2001, the Appellant filed this appeal with the Division.


On April 16, 1998, the Appellant received a sentence of ten (10) years and a $10,000.00 fine, suspended upon the service of eighteen (18) months and five (5) years probation for the crime of Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature. Afterwards, the Appellant was found in violation of his probation for that crime. The Court then revoked his probation and suspended sentence on August 11, 2000, and sentenced the Appellant to six (6) years for his original crime. In sentencing the Appellant, the Court specifically struck language that the Appellant’s sentence apply to the remainder of the original sentence and acknowledged the Appellant has already served eighteen (18) months. The Court also gave the Appellant credit for the one hundred nine (109) days he served in pre-trial detention awaiting determination of his probation violation.


The Division’s jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). In McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001), the Division issued an En Banc Order interpreting the breadth of its jurisdiction pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The decision holds that the Division’s appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two (2) types of cases: (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 the Department has taken an inmate’s created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing. In this case, the Appellant alleges that the Department incorrectly calculated his sentence because the Department failed to award him credit for the eighteen (18) months that he served on his split sentence.

When reviewing the Department’s decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz. Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency’s determination is arbitrary, affected by error of law or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (1986 & Supp. 2000); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756. “‘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). Moreover, 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, 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.” Furthermore, 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 Division adhere to a “hands off” approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. 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 discipline and policy).

I find that the Appellant was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. Furthermore, the Department correctly calculated the Appellant’s sentence. S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-40 (b) (1989) provides that:

The computation of the time served by prisoners under sentences imposed by the courts of this State shall be reckoned from the date of the imposition of the sentence. But when (a) a prisoner shall have given notice of intention to appeal, (b) the commencement of the service of the sentence follows the revocation of probation or (c) the court shall have designated a specific time for the commencement of the service of the sentence, the computation of the time served shall be reckoned from the date of the commencement of the service of the sentence. In every case in computing the time served by a prisoner, full credit against the sentence shall be given for time served prior to trial and sentencing.

In Blakeney v. State, the Supreme Court held that “‘time served’ in § 24‑13‑40 means the time during which a defendant is in pre‑trial confinement and charged with the offense for which he is sentenced (so long as he is not serving time for a prior conviction).” 339 S.C. 86, 88, 29 S.E.2d 9, 10-11 (2000).

Here, upon revoking the Appellant’s suspended sentence, the Court was free to sentence the Appellant to ten (10) years incarceration. However, that sentence would have to give the Appellant credit for the time he had already served. Therefore, the maximum incarceration the Court could have imposed was eight (8) years and six (6) months. In this case, the sentencing court correctly considered that the Appellant had served 18 months and sentenced the Appellant to serve an additional six (6) years.[1] In other words, the Court, in determining the appropriate sentence to levy, gave the Appellant “credit” for the time he had served. Consequently, the Appellant is not entitled to credit for his prior service of eighteen (18) months and his six (6) year sentence should be calculated to begin running one hundred night (109) days prior to August 11, 2000.

The Department’s calculation worksheet reflects that the Department calculated the Appellant’s sentence start date as April 22, 2000. That date correctly credits the Appellant with at least one hundred nine (109) days. Furthermore, that sentence calculation correctly fulfills the Court’s sentence of the Appellant.


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



Ralph K. Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

March 31, 2003

Columbia, South Carolina

[1] “In determining a proper sentence, a defendant's history, character, and rehabilitative potential, along with the seriousness of the offense, the need to protect society, and the need for deterrence and punishment, must be equally weighed.” State v. Brouwer, 346 S.C. 375, 390, 550 S.E.2d 915, 923 (Ct. App. 2001). When making the sentence determination, the judge can consider a wide variety of factors, such as defendant's character, background and prior record. Id at 390.

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