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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Kenneth Evans, #254429 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Kenneth Evans, #254429

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Kenneth Evans, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since March 27, 1998. On January 4, 2000, Inmate Evans was convicted of Violation of a Written or Posted Institutional Rule, Disciplinary Code 3.15, after he was observed smoking on his bed on December 14, 1999. As a result of his conviction, Inmate Evans received a reprimand. As a result of the reprimand, Inmate Evans failed to earn twenty days of "good time" credit for the month of December. Inmate Evans also alleges that he lost his prison job, had his earned work credit ability lowered, and was placed in a higher security classification. Inmate Evans filed a grievance with the Department on January 11, 2000, and received a final decision from the Department on March 21, 2000. On March 29, 2000, Inmate Evans filed this appeal with the Division.

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. 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. 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).

Further, absent a clear statutory expression otherwise, inmates have no protected interest in a specific job, or even to any job at all. See James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 629-630 (3d Cir. 1989), citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983), and Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972). Likewise, inmates have no protected interest in the ability to earn work credits. Unlike "good time" credits, which an inmate is entitled to pursuant to state law, earned work credits are awarded at the discretion of the Department Director. See S.C. Code Ann. 24-13-230(A)("[t]he Director of the Department of Corrections may allow any prisoner in the custody of the department...who is assigned to a productive duty assignment...a reduction from term of his sentence of zero to one day for every two days he is employed...")(emphasis added); Olim v. Wakinelona, 461 U.S. 238, 249 (1983)(unless state law places "substantive limitations" on official discretion, no liberty interest is created). Therefore, because the loss of earned work credits would not "impose an atypical and significant hardship" on the inmate, no due process is required before the Department places restrictions on an inmate's ability to earn such credits. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). Finally, an inmate has no protected interest in his prison classification because it does not "inevitably affect the duration of [the inmate's] sentence." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S. Ct. 2293 (1995); See also Joseph v. U.S. Fed. Bur. of Prisons, 232 F.3d 901 (10th Cir. 2000).

I find that Inmate Evans has no liberty interest in "good time" credit he failed to earn as a result of his rule violation in December 1999. Neither does Inmate Evans have a protected interest in his security classification, prison job, or the ability to earn work credits at a particular rate. As such, Inmate Evans 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 Evans was not entitled to any hearing regarding a facility rules violation resulting in his inability to earn "good time" credit, the Major 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.

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



Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

May 23, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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