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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Marico Stevens, #245975 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Marico Stevens, #245975

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter comes before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Marico Stevens, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since October 27, 1997, and housed at Perry Correctional Institution ("Perry"). On March 6, 2000, Inmate Stevens filed a grievance with the Department, alleging that his cell was being searched routinely in violation of Department policy. By Final Decision dated June 12, 2000, the Department denied Inmate Stevens' grievance. Inmate Stevens filed this appeal with the Division on June 30, 2000.


According to Inmate Stevens, two Department employees, Officer Parrish and Sergeant Stevens, conducted numerous searches of Inmate Stevens' cell in his absence, perhaps as many as two or three times on any given day. In his grievance, Inmate Stevens alleges such searches were conducted to harass him. The Department does not deny that such searches have occurred. However, the Department asserts that the searches were proper and made in accordance with its policies and procedures.

In an effort to control and prevent the introduction of unauthorized items into the State's prisons, as well as to control and prevent the possession of unauthorized items by inmates, the Department conducts routine searches of the property and living areas of its inmates, called "shakedowns." Pursuant to Department policy, a shakedown may be unannounced and conducted at any time. Policy/Procedure OP-22.19, Directive 5; 22.19(4)(a). However, Department policy prohibits searches conducted to harass, humiliate, punish, or retaliate against any inmate. Policy/Procedure OP-22.19, Directive 3; 22.19(2)(c). III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 ("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.

Under the Act, the Division may not substitute its judgment for that of a state agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. See Long Cove Home Owners' Ass'n v. Beaufort Cnty. Tax Equalization Bd., 327 S.C. 135, 139, 488 S.E.2d 857, 860 (1997); Marietta Garage, Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605, 607 (Ct. App. 1999). The Division may, however, reverse or modify a decision of the Department that is clearly erroneous in light of substantial evidence in the record. See Long Cove, 327 S.C. at 139, 488 S.E.2d at 860. "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, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981); see Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 755-56.


A prisoner retains those constitutional rights not inconsistent with legitimate penological objectives. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545-47 (1979). Because the state's need for institutional security is so great, an inmate is not entitled to the protection of the Fourth Amendment against the unreasonable search of his cell. Id. at 528, 530. Nonetheless, an inmate has the right to be free of "calculated harassment unrelated to prison needs" if that harassment is "cruel and unusual punishment" as proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 530; see Scher v. Engelke, 943 F.2d 921 (1991). The search of an inmate's cell ten times in nineteen days without the belief that contraband is present in the cell may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 923-24.

In the instant case, Inmate Stevens alleges that Department employees search his cell two or three times daily. The Department does not deny this, nor does the Department proffer any reason for the excessive number of searches. Instead, the Department asserts that it possesses the authority to conduct routine, unannounced searches of an inmate's living quarters. Because the Department has offered no evidence that the repeated searches of Inmate Stevens' cell is related to prison needs, and is not to "harass, humiliate, punish, or retaliate against" him, I find that there is substantial evidence that Inmate Stevens was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. As such, the Final Decision of the Department is REVERSED.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Final Decision of the Department is REVERSED;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department cease to conduct searches of Inmate Stevens' living quarters that are unrelated to prison needs and security interests, and are calculated to harass, humiliate, punish, or retaliate against Inmate Stevens.




Administrative Law Judge

P.O. Box 11667

Columbia, South Carolina 29211

May 18, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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