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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Stephen Stanko #235278 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Stephen Stanko #235278

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (ALJD or Division) pursuant to the appeal of Stephen Stanko, an inmate incarcerated with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (Department) since February 23, 1996. Stanko filed a grievance with the Department objecting to its decision to deny him "good time" credits. On April 10, 2001, Stanko filed this appeal with the Division. The Appellant claims the Department erred in interpreting his sentence.


On July 29, 1996, the Appellant was sentenced in General Sessions Court for kidnaping in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-910 (Supp. 1995), assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (common law offense), obtaining goods under false pretenses in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-240 (Supp. 1995), and breach of trust with a fraudulent intention (common law offense). The Department classified the Appellant as an inmate subject to a non-parolable offense and determined that the Appellant is required to serve 85 % of the sentence imposed. (1) As a result of his classification, after the Appellant accrued 632 days of "earned work credits," the Department determined he was no longer eligible to receive either "earned work credits" or "good time credits" toward his sentence because any further credits would reduce the service of his sentence to less than 85% of the sentence imposed.

On December 18, 2000, the Appellant filed a grievance, complaining that he should be receiving "good time" credits. In response, the Warden informed the Appellant that because he was required to serve 85% of his sentence, he was not eligible to earn any earned work credits or "good time." The Appellant then appealed the Warden's decision to the Department. The Department issued its Final Decision on April 7, 2001, denying the Appellant's grievance. This appeal ensued.


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. The McNeil 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 Appellant alleges that the Department is improperly denying or calculating his "good time" credits. When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 756. Consequently, the 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 "as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact." S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (1986 & Supp. 2001). Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not reverse or modify an agency's decision unless substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the decision is "clearly erroneous in view of the substantial evidence on the whole record, in violation of a constitutional or statutory provision, or arbitrary." Marietta Garage, Inc. v. South Carolina Dept. of Public Safety, 337 S.C. 133, 522 S.E.2d 605, 607 (1999).

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. Section 1-23-380(A)(6) (1986 & Supp. 2001); 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).


The Appellant argues that he entitled to continue to earn "good time" credits in the amount of three days for each month served. (2) The Appellant is currently serving a ten-year sentence for kidnaping. S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-100 (1989 & Supp. 1995) provides that Class A, B, or C felonies are "no parole" offenses. Kidnaping is a Class A felony. See S.C. Code Ann § 16-1-90 (A) (Supp. 1995). An individual who is convicted of a Class A felony must serve 85% of their sentence before they are eligible for release. S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-150 (1989 & Supp. 1995). Furthermore, S.C. Code Ann § 24-13-210(B) (1989 & Supp. 1995) provides that:

A prisoner convicted of a "no parole offense" against this State as defined in Section 24-13-100 and sentenced to the custody of the Department of Corrections . . . whose record of conduct shows that he has faithfully observed all the rules of the institution where he is confined and has not been subjected to punishment for misbehavior, is entitled to a deduction from the term of his sentence beginning with the day on which the service of his sentence commences to run, computed at the rate of three days for each month served.

However, Section 24-13-210 further provides that "[n]o prisoner convicted of a 'no parole offense' is entitled to a reduction below the minimum term of incarceration provided in Section 24-13-125 or 24-13-150." (Emphasis added).

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that the court is to ascertain and effectuate the actual intent of the legislature. In determining this intent, statutes which are part of the same act must be construed together and each one given effect, if it can be done by any reasonable construction. Burns v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 297 S.C. 520, 377 S.E.2d 569 (1989); Higgins v. State, 307 S.C. 446, 415 S.E.2d 799 (1992). Moreover, "[w]here a statute is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for construction and the terms of that statute must be given their literal meaning." Duke Power Co. v. S.C. Tax Commission, 292 S.C. 64, 354 S.E. 2d 902, 903 (1987).

Here, the Appellant received a ten-year sentence pursuant to his conviction for kidnaping. The Department correctly calculated his sentence using the following three step process:

a. 10 (years) x 365 (days) = 3,650 days of service

b. 3,650 (days of service) x 85% = 3,102.5 days of service to complete 85% of a 10-year sentence

c. 3,102.5 (days of service) ÷ 30.42 (average number of days in a month) = 101.98 months of service

After offsetting 632 days of "earned work credits (or 20.77 months) from the Appellant's total sentence of 119.98 months, the Appellant's remaining sentence would be 99.21 months which is shorter than 85% of the total sentence. Certainly, any additional credits given to the Appellant would only further reduce his sentence which, according to the Record presented by the Department, would be shorter than 85% of the total sentence.

I find that Section 24-13-210 clearly sets forth that an inmate sentenced to a "no parole" offense is not allowed to accrue any credits which would reduce the service of his sentence to less than 85%. Therefore, since the Appellant is required to serve a sentence of 101.98 months for his kidnaping conviction, the Department correctly determined that he should no longer accrue any additional credits at this juncture in his service.


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


Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

July 22, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. The offense date of the kidnaping crime was February 20, 1996. Therefore the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. Section § 24-13-150 (1989 & Supp. 1995) (effective Jan. 1, 1996) are applicable.

2. The Appellant also contends in his Brief that he faces potential discipline if he refuses to work or "act in the proper decorum." The Appellant cites no instances in which he has been disciplined for failure to work or for improper behavior. Furthermore, this issue was not raised to the Department. Moreover, even if this issued had been raised below, it would not be an issue that this Division would consider pursuant to Al-Shabazz. See McNeil, supra.

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