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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Shabaka S. Makhu #173788 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Shabaka S. Makhu #173788

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter comes before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD or Division) pursuant to the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). Appellant Shabaka S. Makhu contends that unknown officials of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC or Department) have arbitrarily, covertly, and illegally seized his earned "good-time" credits and that, in reviewing his grievance on that count, the Department is guilty of malfeasance by not conducting a conscientious investigation of his claims. Having reviewed the record, applicable law, and the briefs filed by the parties in this matter, I conclude that the decision of the Department to deny Appellant's vague and meritless grievance must be affirmed.


On August 14, 2000, Appellant filed a Step 1 grievance form alleging that his good-time credits were being seized in an "arbitrary, covert, and illegal" manner contrary to DOC Policy OP-22.14, S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-210(d) (Supp. 2001), and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Unsatisfied with the warden's response to this grievance, Appellant filed a Step 2 grievance alleging that the Department was guilty of malfeasance for failing to conduct a "conscientious investigation" into his grievance. Unsatisfied with the Department's response to this grievance, Appellant brought the instant appeal before the ALJD.


In Al-Shabazz, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that inmates may seek review of final decisions of the Department in certain "non-collateral" or administrative matters (i.e., those matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence) by appealing those decisions to the ALJD pursuant to the South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 376, 527 S.E.2d at 754. In McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, a majority of the judges of the ALJD, sitting en banc, held that this tribunal's jurisdiction to hear inmate appeals under Al-Shabazz is limited to: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status, and (2) cases in which the Department has taken an inmate's created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing. McNeil v. S.C. Dep't of Corrections, No. 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP, slip op. at 4-5 (S.C. Admin. Law Judge. Div. Sept. 5, 2001) (en banc). In the case at hand, Appellant contends that the Department has improperly taken his good-time credits; accordingly, this tribunal has jurisdiction over this matter.

When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 377, 527 S.E.2d at 754. Consequently, this tribunal's review of inmate appeals is confined to the record presented, id., and its inquiry into these matters is primarily concerned with ensuring that the Department has granted aggrieved inmates the process they are due when their constitutional rights are implicated. Id. at 369, 527 S.E.2d at 750; McNeil, No. 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP, at 5 ("[O]ur review is limited solely to the determination of whether the Department granted 'minimal due process' in reaching [its] decisions . . . ."). Further, recognizing that prison officials are in the best position to decide inmate disciplinary matters, this tribunal will adhere to the traditional "hands off" approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. 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 discipline and policy). However, notwithstanding this deferential standard of review, this tribunal must conduct meaningful review of the Department's actions to ensure that inmate grievances are addressed in a fair, reasonable, and efficient manner. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 383, 527 S.E.2d at 757.

However, there is little for this tribunal to review in the present appeal. Both Appellant's grievance and his appeal before the Division are vague and meritless. His bald accusation that his good-time credit is being illegally seized by unknown DOC officials is woefully unspecific and wholly unsubstantiated. Further, his allegation that the Department failed to conduct a proper investigation of his unfounded accusations is plainly without merit. Moreover, it should be noted that Appellant's lack of good-time credits is not due to the illegal seizure of his credits by unknown Department officials, but rather is the result of the Department's revocation of and Appellant's failure to earn those credits because of Appellant's numerous disciplinary convictions. (1)

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Department's denial of Appellant's grievance is AFFIRMED.



Administrative Law Judge

June 21, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. Appellant has been convicted of eighty disciplinary offenses since his incarceration with the Department began in 1994. As punishment for these convictions, the Department is entitled by Department policy, State law, and the United States Constitution to revoke Appellant's earned good-time credits.

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