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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Calvin Hankins #241248 vs. DOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Calvin Hankins #241248

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD or Division) pursuant to the appeal of Calvin Hankins, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (DOC or Department). Hankins was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 1.08, Riot. As a result of his conviction, Hankins lost on hundred seventy (170) days of “good-time” credit. Hankins filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department’s final decision on November 13, 2001. On November 28, 2001, Hankins filed this appeal with the Division.


On October 1, 2001, Associate Warden Dunlap, a DOC employee, was working in Kershaw Correction Institution. Several inmates refused to leave the recreation yard, demanding that they see the Warden. The Appellant specifically refused several directives to exit the yard stating at one point the phrase “all the way” in support of the inmates’ actions. The Appellant along with the other inmates later entered the A pod where they acquired objects such as, chairs and mop sticks, to be used as weapons. Several other inmates began setting fires on the “pod” and barricading themselves into the A pod. The Appellant helped other inmates shatter the glass of the A pod recreation door. After the incident, Associate Warden Dunlap completed an Incident Report. The Appellant was charged with violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 1.08, Riot. He received written notice of the charges on October 3, 2001.

A Major Disciplinary Hearing was held on October 9, 2001, before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) concerning the Riot charge. At the Appellant’s request, he was provided a counsel substitute. Additionally, the Appellant initially requested that Associate Warden Dunlap be present at the hearing. However, at the hearing the Appellant requested that Associate Warden Dunlap not be present at the hearing. During the hearing, the DHO read a narrative of Associate Warden Dunlap’s Incident Report into the record as evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO found that the Appellant was guilty of Riot and sanctioned him with the loss of 170 days of good time credit. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record, which documented the DHO’s findings based on the record.

The Appellant filed a grievance on October 12, 2001, appealing his conviction of violating SCDC 1.08. After reviewing his allegation, the Warden denied the Appellant’s grievance on October 19, 2001, finding that there were no procedural errors in the offense charged or his hearing. After he appealed the Warden’s decision, 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 alleges that he was denied due process because there was no evidence to support the DHO’s decision. The Appellant also contends that the evidence did not support the finding of guilt.


The Division’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). 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 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 excessively revoked one hundred seventy (170) days of 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, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d 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. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

In Al-Shabazz, the Court held that inmates may seek review before this Division to ensure that the Department’s revocation of good-time credits as punishment in “major disciplinary hearings” involving “more serious rule violations” comports with “minimal due process.” The ALJD inquiry into these matters is primarily concerned with ensuring that the Department has granted aggrieved inmates the process they are due when their constitutional rights are implicated. Id. 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, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Furthermore, 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.” 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 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. 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 fact, his counsel substitute specifically questioned Associate Warden Dunlap concerning her viewpoint and whether she needed and was wearing her glasses. 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 detailing the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding the Appellant guilty of the disciplinary infraction. Finally, the Appellant was permitted to appeal the DHO’s decision through the inmate grievance process.

Moreover, I find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code § 1.08, Riot. A Code § 1.08 violation is: “When an inmate, with two or more persons, intentionally participates in conduct that creates danger of damage or injury to property or persons and substantially obstructs the performance of unit operations or institutional operations.” Associate Warden Dunlap’s version of what occurred was vastly different from that of the Appellant. The record clearly supports the facts recited in the “Background” portion of this Order. Those facts establish sufficient evidence to support the Department’s determination that the Appellant participated with several inmates in actions that violated SCDC Disciplinary Code § 1.08. Furthermore, “[t]he 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 (1998). Therefore, it was the DHO’s prerogative to decide what part of each witness’ testimony he believed or disbelieved.


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



Ralph K. Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

March 31, 2003

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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