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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Al-Maqtauir Allah vs. DOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Al-Maqtauir Allah #184003

South Carolina Department of Corrections



Grievance No. MSU 0220-01


I. Introduction

This matter is a challenge by Al-Maqtauir Allah #184003 (Allah) to a custody classification imposed by South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC). Having reviewed the record, applicable law, and the briefs filed by the parties in this matter, I conclude DOC's decision must be affirmed.

II. Analysis

In general, an inmate may appeal a final decision of DOC to the ALJD if the matter is "non-collateral" (i.e., a matter in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence). Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). More particular to the instant case, the ALJD has jurisdiction over inmate appeals that assert an error has been made by DOC in determining an inmate's custody status. McNeilv. S.C. Dep't of Corrections, No. 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (S.C. Admin. Law Judge. Div. Sept. 5, 2001) (en banc). In the instant case Allah argues DOC has wrongly imposed a custody status of level 2, Maximum Security.

When reviewing a DOC custody decision, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 377, 527 S.E.2d at 754. Thus, the review is confined to the record Id. 527 S.E.2d at 750. In making the review, the ALJ must be mindful that a traditional "hands off" approach exists on discretionary decisions resulting from internal prison policies. 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 policy). However, such a deferential standard of review does not preclude a reversal of the DOC determination. Rather, the ALJ conducts a review of DOC's actions to ensure the inmate grievance is addressed in a fair, reasonable, and efficient manner. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 383, 527 S.E.2d at 757. Primarily, two grounds exist warranting an alteration to a custody classification: due process and arbitrary action

A. Due Process

Allah contends that DOC's custody classification is inconsistent with procedural due process. However, "[t]he requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 369, 527 S.E.2d at 750 (quoting Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972)). An inmate does not have a protected liberty interest in his custody status unless such an interest is created: (1) by the Due Process clause of its own force because the challenged custody status is not "within the sentence imposed upon him" or is "otherwise violative of the Constitution," Hewittv. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983), see also Slezakv. Evatt, 21 F.3d 590 (4th Cir. 1994); or (2) by state law because the challenged custody status "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995).

Here, Al-Maqtauir Allah #184003 has no protected liberty interest as to a custody status. First, the custody assigned is "well within the terms of confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison sentence," Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 468, so as not to implicate a liberty interest under the Due Process clause of its own force. Second, the custody assigned "does not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a State might conceivably create a liberty interest." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486. Thus, no constitutionally recognized liberty interest having been impacted by DOC's discretionary custody classification, no challenge can be founded on due process grounds. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-58 (1974).

B. Arbitrary Decision

Further, even if due process itself is not invoked, our Court has held that an inmate may challenge his custody status if "prison officials have acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or from personal bias" in determining his custody status. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 381, 527 S.E.2d at 756 (citing Crowev. Leeke, 273 S.C. 763, 259 S.E.2d 614 (1979)). But, while review of these Crowe-based claims is not "improper or unavailable," id., the level of scrutiny devoted to such claims is limited. Accordingly, where, as here, the record suggests the DOC decision as to custody status involves a "good faith exercise of the discretionary power of the prison officials in the maintenance of order, discipline, and security among the prison population," Crowe, 273 S.C. at 764, 259 S.E.2d at 615, the DOC decision will not be disturbed on appeal.

III. Conclusion

The due process claim raised by Al-Maqtauir Allah does not result in a change of custody status. Likewise, the record does not suggest that DOC acted arbitrarily or from personal bias in denying the custody status requested. Accordingly, DOC's custody decision is AFFIRMED.




Administrative Law Judge

Dated: January 16, 2003

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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