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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Derrick Gray, #232816 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Derrick Gray, #232816

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD) pursuant to the appeal of Derrick Gray (Appellant) an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (Department). On January 19, 2001, the Appellant was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.14, Evading a Security Device, after a hearing on the charge. As a result of his conviction, the Appellant lost 285 days of "good-time" credit. Gray filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department's final decision on February 13, 2001. On March 14, 2001, Gray filed this appeal.


On December 31, 2000, the Appellant was charged by Sgt. R.B. Brown of the Department of Corrections with a violation of SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.14, Evading a Security Device. Sgt. Brown charged Appellant after reporting that he found red toothbrush in the door track of the cell door. This would prevent the door from closing. Neither inmate in the cell would admit to placing the toothbrush. Appellant claims the officer never took a red toothbrush out of the door track.

In his Notice of Appeal and his Appellate Brief, the Appellant alleges that he was wrongfully convicted for a violation done my another inmate. The other inmate filed a note in the grievance office on February 7, 2000, claiming responsibility.


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 McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001) the Division issued an En Banc Order interpreting the breadth of its jurisdiction pursuant to Al- Shabazz. That decision holds that the Division's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two types of cases: (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.

In this case, the Department revoked 285 days of good time as punishment in a major disciplinary action.. Inmates have a protected liberty interest in their earned statutory good-time credits under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, when, as here, the Department revokes an inmate's good-time credits as punishment in a "major disciplinary hearings" involving "more serious rule violations," prison officials must provide that inmate with "minimal due process." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. Consequently, specific administrative procedures must be followed before depriving an inmate of statutorily granted earned credit, 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, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

In Al-Shabazz, the Court held that inmates may seek review before this Division to ensure that the Department's revocation of good-time credits as punishment in a "major disciplinary hearing" involving "more serious rule violations" comports with "minimal due process." The ALJD 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. When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Id. Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency's determination is arbitrary, 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)(1986 & Supp. 2001); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756.

"'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, 276 S.C. 130, 135, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981). Furthermore, the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Grant v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 319 S.C. 348, 461 S.E.2d 388 (1995). Additionally, in Superintendent, Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Walpole

v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 105 S.Ct. 2768 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Moreover, in Al-Shabazz, the Court underscored that since prison officials are in the best position to decide inmate disciplinary matters, that the Courts and therefore this Division adhere to a "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).

I find that the Appellant was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al- Shabazz.

The Record indicates that the Appellant received written notice of the charges against him in excess of twenty-four (24) hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial Disciplinary Hearing Officer. At the hearing, the Appellant was given the opportunity to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront his accuser. In addition, the Appellant was afforded the right to counsel substitute to assist him in his defense which he was provided.. After the DHO determined that the Appellant was guilty of the charged offense, he prepared a written report detailing the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding the Appellant guilty of the disciplinary infraction. The appeal process was explained to him. Finally, the Appellant was permitted to appeal the DHO's decision through the inmate grievance process.

Moreover, I find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.14, Evading a Security Device. Sgt. Brown testified as to the events of the violation. He was clear about cell number and the inmates involved. Appellant was in the cell where the toothbrush was in the door track. The other inmate did not claim to have sole knowledge of the presence of the toothbrush until approximately six weeks after the incident and three weeks after Appellant's hearing, thus causing the Department and this Division to question its veracity.


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




Administrative Law Judge

October 15, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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