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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions


South Carolina Department of Corrections


South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Jesse Holland, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since April 28, 1987. On September 14, 1999, Inmate Holland was convicted of "Out of Place" after he was observed walking down the steps of a wing in which he did not live during a period when inmate movement between wings was restricted. As a result of his conviction, Inmate Holland received a reprimand. As a result of the reprimand, Inmate Holland failed to earn twenty days of "good time" credit. Inmate Holland filed a grievance with the Department on October 11, 1999, and received a final decision from the Department on December 21, 1999. On January 4, 2000, Inmate Holland attempted to file an action seeking review of the Department's final decision in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County. (1) On March 13, 2000, Inmate Holland filed this appeal with the Division. On August 21, 2000, Inmate Holland made a motion for oral argument pursuant to ALJD Temporary Rule 66 and Rule 218, SCACR. For the following reasons, the decision of the Department is hereby affirmed and Inmate Holland's motion for oral argument is denied.


On September 11, 1999, a Department corrections officer, Seargent Carter, observed Inmate Holland walking down the steps of Hampton B wing of Allendale Correctional Institution ("Facility") at approximately 10:15 a.m. Inmate Holland is a resident of Hampton A wing. Fifteen minutes prior, the recreation field separating the two Hampton wings closed, thereby prohibiting inmate movement between wings. At the time he was observed in Hampton B wing, Inmate Holland was returning alone from B wing's dayroom with a newspaper. Inmate Holland states that the disabled inmate to which he was assigned requested that Inmate Holland retrieve the paper while the disabled inmate took a shower. After the incident, Sergeant Carter completed a Disciplinary Offense Report, charging Inmate Holland with "Out of Place." The Report was then forwarded to Major Wolfe, who determined that a "minor" hearing regarding the incident would be held. Inmate Holland received written notice of the charge three days before his hearing, which was held on September 17, 1999, before a Minor Hearing Officer ("MHO"). At the hearing, the MHO permitted Inmate Holland to make a statement. In addition, the MHO took an additional statement from Seargent Carter. Inmate Holland was not permitted to cross-examine Seargent Carter or to present any witnesses. Once the hearing was concluded, the MHO completed a Minor Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record, indicating that Inmate Holland was found guilty of Out of Place, for which he received a reprimand as a sanction. Consequently, Inmate Holland failed to earn twenty days' "good time" credit for the month of September 1999.


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 Al- Shabazz, the Supreme Court created a new avenue by which inmates could seek review of final decisions of the Department of Corrections in "non-collateral" matters, i.e., matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence, by appealing those decisions to the Division and ultimately to the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. 338 S.C. at 373, 376, 527 S.E.2d at 752, 754. In its appellate capacity, the Division is primarily concerned with ensuring that the appellants receive all procedural process they are due.

As in all cases subject to appellate review by the Division, the standard of 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 unless the agency's determination is 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) (Supp. 1999); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756; Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Moreover, to afford "meaningful judicial review," the Administrative Law Judge must "adequately explain" his decision by "documenting the findings of fact" and basing his decision on "reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756.


The Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of procedural due process applies only to the deprivation of a life, liberty, or property interest. Board of Regents of State College v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 2705 (1972). The statutory right to sentence-related credits is a protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974); Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 369-370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. An inmate facing the loss of sentence-related credits is entitled to minimal due process to ensure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated. Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. While due process is "flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands, Stono River Envtl. Protection Ass'n v. S.C. Dept. Of Health and Envtl. Control, 305 S.C. 90, 94, 406 S.E.2d 30, 341 (1991), certain elements must be satisfied in order for procedural due process requirements to be met, 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, 338 S.C. 371, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

However, an inmate has no liberty interest in sentence-related credits that have not yet been earned. See Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d 192 (5th Cir. 1995) (mere opportunity to earn good-time credits does not constitute a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest sufficient to trigger the protection of the Due Process Clause), citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S. Ct. 2293 (1995) (where state's action does not "inevitably affect the duration of [the inmate's] sentence," no constitutionally cognizable liberty interest exists). In the absence of such an interest, an inmate facing a "minor disciplinary proceeding," one in which he does not face the potential loss of sentence-related credits, is not entitled to an Al-Shabazz-type hearing. See Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 372, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff, 418 U.S. at 571 ("We do not suggest, however, that the procedures required by today's decision for the deprivation of good time credits would also be required for the imposition of lesser penalties.").

A parole-eligible inmate in the custody of the Department who has not been subjected to punishment for misbehavior and has otherwised followed the rules of the Department "is entitled to a deduction from the term of his sentence...computed at the rate of twenty days for each month served." S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-210(A) (Supp. 1995). Such an inmate is not entitled to any deduction for good behavior until he has completed that month's service. See id.; 1978 S.C. Op. Atty. Gen. 172 ("the effect of the language of the to require that the deductions be made for the time spent in actual incarceration with good behavior"). Therefore, an inmate who violates a Department rule will fail to earn twenty days' "good time" credit for the month in which the rule violation occurred.

In the instant case, Inmate Holland was observed alone in a wing other than the wing where he lived during a time in which inmate movement between wings was restricted, a violation of the Facility's rules. As a result of his infraction, Inmate Holland failed to earn twenty days' credit toward his sentence for the month of September 1999.

I find that Inmate Holland has no liberty interest in "good time" credit he failed to earn as a result of his rule violation in September 1999. As such, Inmate Holland is not entitled to an Al-Shabazz-type hearing, in which he is represented by counsel substitute, if necessary, and in which he has the opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses. Therefore, because Inmate Holland was not entitled to any hearing regarding a Facility rules violation resulting in his inability to earn "good time" credit, the Minor Disciplinary Hearing provided by the Department was more than sufficient. That the Department routinely affords inmates charged with Facility rules violations and other minor infractions some process does not indicate that any process is required, much less the process described in Al-Shabazz when a life, liberty, or property interest is at stake. Accordingly, the Department's final decision is affirmed.

Moreover, because I find that oral argument in this case is not necessary, Inmate Holland's motion for oral argument is denied.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Appellant's appeal is denied, and the Final Decision of the Department is hereby AFFIRMED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Appellant's motion for oral argument is DENIED.





September 21, 2000

Columbia, South Carolina

1. Although Inmate Holland took all necessary steps to file his action with the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, the Clerk of Court did not assign a docket number to his action pending the Supreme Court's rehearing of Al-Shabazz v. State, infra. Inmate Holland's pleadings were returned to him by the Clerk's office following the Supreme Court's February 14, 2000 decision. Because Inmate Holland took all possible steps to file his appeal with the circuit court prior to the Al-Shabazz decision, I find that the Division has jurisdiction pursuant toAl-Shabazz v. State to hear Inmate Holland's appeal. See Order Denying Motion to Dismiss in Holley v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, Docket No. 00-ALJ-04-00002-AP (Kittrell, C.J.).

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