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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Jerry L. Brown, #256481 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Jerry L. Brown, #256481

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Jerry L. Brown, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since September 9,1991. On December 15, 1999, Inmate Brown was fired from his job with Prison Industries at Lieber Correctional Institution ("Facility"). After his termination, Inmate Brown failed to accrue earned work credit for the period of his unemployment. Also, for a six week period following his December 2, 1999 deposit of a check into his E.H. Cooper Trust Account, Inmate Brown was denied access to his deposited funds. Inmate Brown filed a grievance on December 21, 1999, and received a final decision from the Department on May 16, 2000. On June 7, 2000, Inmate Brown filed this appeal with the Division.


On November 23, 1999, the Facility Mailroom received registered mail addressed to Inmate Brown. On December 2, 1999, Inmate Brown was ordered to the mailroom to receive his registered mail. The envelope contained a check from Container Royalty Supplemental Cash Benefit Fund that was made out to Inmate Brown in the amount of $6,162.44. Inmate Brown endorsed the check. Inmate Brown then attempted to send the check out of the Facility in a self-addressed envelope he received with the check, but was not permitted to do so. The check was then deposited into Inmate Brown's prison account in the E.H. Cooper Trust Fund ("Account") on December 7, 1999. That day, Inmate Brown attempted to make a number of withdrawals from his account, which, prior to the December 7 deposit, contained twelve cents. However, an unidentified Department employee denied Inmate Brown's requests for withdrawals and informed him in writing that he could not have access to his deposit until January 18, 2000, because a six-week hold had been placed on the deposited check. By January 29, 2000, Inmate Brown's account had earned $10.35 in interest.

On December 15, 1999, Inmate Brown reported to the Facility's Prison Industries for work. Once he arrived, Inmate Brown's supervisor terminated him for failing to report for work the previous day. Apparently, on December 14, 1999, Inmate Brown received instructions to report to the Facility's library and mailroom. Instead of reporting to work and informing his supervisor of his instructions, Inmate Brown reported to the library and mailroom. Inmate Brown's supervisor, considering the absence "unexcused," terminated Inmate Brown. As a result, Inmate Brown failed to earn work credits during his period of unemployment following his December 15 termination.

On December 21, 1999, Inmate Brown filed a grievance, complaining that he had been terminated from his job unfairly and that he had been forced to deposit a check in his Account, whereupon such funds were wrongfully withheld from him. In response, the warden informed Inmate Brown that the hold on his account had been removed. In addition, the warden informed Inmate Brown that prison job assignments were non-grievable pursuant to Department policy. Inmate Brown then appealed his grievance to the Department, alleging that the warden failed to address his complaints that he had been unfairly terminated and that he had been forced to deposit a check against his will. The Department's Final Decision, issued on April 18, 2000, denied Inmate Brown's grievance regarding his complaint that he had been unfairly terminated. The Department's Final Decision did not address Inmate Brown's complaints regarding the check.


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).

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); 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).

Moreover, an inmate's job assignment is not grievable. In accordance with the Department's policies and procedures, inmates are permitted to file grievances challenging a number of Department actions and decisions. Those same policies and procedures identify several types of issues that may not be grieved. One of those categories includes classification issues, which includes:

  • institutional and security assignments made at Reception and Evaluation Centers;
  • institutional job assignments, except where there may be extenuating medical circumstances involved; and
  • cell, dormitory, or cubicle assignments made within an institution.

Department Policy/Procedure GA-01.12(OP)(8)(a).

This policy, including its limitations regarding grievable issues, comports with due process requirements. See Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 373, 527 S.E.2d at 752 (Department's grievance procedures are consistent with due process requirements). Therefore, Because he has not shown that "extenuating medical circumstances" were involved, Inmate Brown may not grieve the loss of his employment with Prison Industries.

Regarding Inmate Brown's claims involving the check, Inmate Brown has not raised a cognizable claim. No constitutional deprivation has been alleged. Although Inmate Brown was briefly denied access to funds deposited in his Account, the Department acted in accordance with its policy in withholding his funds for a period of six weeks. See Department Policy/Procedure 700.1-6(6)(b)(1) ("certain types of other checks may be deposited to the Cooper Trust Fund with the stipulation that a six-week freeze (hold on deposit) will apply from the date of bank deposit.") In addition, the Department permitted Inmate Brown to draw on his Account after Inmate Brown filed his grievance. At the time of this Appeal, Inmate Brown had full access to his Account. The only possible relief Inmate Brown could be seeking is money damages. However, this Division has no authority to award money damages to any party. See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-300, et. seq.; Calhoun Life Ins. Co. v. Gambrell, 245 S.C. 406, ___, 140 S.E.2d 774, 776 (1965)(an administrative agency is a creation of the legislature and, as such, possesses only such powers as are conferred, expressly or by reasonable, necessary implication).

In addition, although he alleges that his funds would earn higher interest in a non-prison account, Inmate Browns' Account continues to earn interest at a competitive rate. Regardless, inmates are not entitled to a certain rate of interest on their trust fund accounts.

The Department's Final Decision regarding Inmate Brown's grievance is hereby AFFIRMED.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED and the appeal of Inmate Brown is DENIED.



Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

May 23, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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