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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Daphney Polodore #255058 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Daphney Polodore #255058

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 Daphney Polodore appeals the decision of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC or Department) to revoke forty days of her "good-time" credit as punishment for creating a disturbance in violation of DOC Disciplinary Code § 2.12. Having reviewed the record, applicable law, and the briefs filed by the parties in this matter, I conclude that the decision of the Department must be affirmed.


On the morning of March 20, 2001, Appellant was eating breakfast in the cafeteria at the Leath Correctional Institution. During breakfast, Appellant's roommate approached Appellant and accused Appellant of taking her identification card. Appellant denied taking the card. However, the argument between Appellant and her roommate escalated as the two began shouting at each other and as other inmates became involved. This disturbance in the cafeteria was witnessed by Sergeant M. Cheek and Sergeant J.W. Price. As a result of this incident, Appellant was charged with violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 2.12, Inciting/Creating a Disturbance.

A hearing of this charge was held before a DOC Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) on March 30, 2001. At the hearing the written reports of Sergeants Cheek and Price were read into the record and Appellant made a statement regarding the incident. At the close of the hearing, the DHO found Appellant guilty of the charge and revoked forty days of her good-time credit as punishment for the offense. Appellant appealed her conviction to the Department and then to this tribunal. On appeal, Appellant contends that she did not take her roommate's identification card and did not start the altercation that led to the disturbance.


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 improperly revoked forty days of her good-time credit as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing; 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.

In the present case, Appellant contends that the Department's decision to revoke her good-time credit was made in violation of her due process rights. Because inmates have a protected liberty interest in their earned statutory good-time credits under the Fourteenth Amendment, they are entitled to "minimum procedures appropriate under the circumstances and required by the Due Process clause to insure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557 (1974). Thus, where, as here, an inmate faces the revocation of good-time credits as punishment in a disciplinary hearing, prison officials must provide that inmate with certain procedural safeguards. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. (1) These procedural safeguards include:

(1) that advance written notice of the charge be given to the inmate at least twenty-four hours before the hearing; (2) that factfinders must prepare a written statement of the evidence relied on and reasons for the disciplinary action; (3) that the inmate should be allowed to call witnesses and present documentary evidence, provided there is no undue hazard to institutional safety or correctional goals; (4) that counsel substitute (a fellow inmate or a prison employee) should be allowed to help illiterate inmates or in complex cases an inmate cannot handle alone; and (5) that the persons hearing the matter, who may be prison officials or employees, must be impartial.

Id. at 371, 527 S.E.2d at 751 (paraphrasing Wolff). Beyond these procedural requirements, the United States Supreme Court has held that the revocation of an inmate's good-time credits does not comport with Due Process unless "there [is] some evidence from which the conclusion of the [prison official] could be deduced." Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). (2) Thus, if the Department affords the inmate a Wolff-type hearing and has at least some evidence in the record to support its decision, the Department's revocation of an inmate's good-time credits satisfies the requirements of due process.

In the disciplinary proceedings underlying the instant appeal, Appellant was afforded all the process due her pursuant to Wolff and Al-Shabazz. The record indicates that Appellant received written notice of the charges against him in excess of twenty-four hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial Disciplinary Hearing Officer. Appellant was given the opportunity to have the assistance of a counsel substitute and to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront her accuser at the hearing. However, Appellant chose not to be represented by a counsel substitute, to confront her accuser, or to present any evidence at the hearing other than her own statement. The record reflects that Appellant was found guilty of violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 2.12, Inciting/Creating a Disturbance, based on the written reports of Sergeants Cheek and Price, and a written statement to that effect was prepared by the hearing officer. After her conviction, Appellant filed a grievance and received a prompt response from her warden, which Appellant then appealed to the Department. In its denial of her appeal, the Department informed Appellant of her right to appeal the Department's final decision under the APA.

Further, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the decision reached by the Department. While Appellant may not have instigated the altercation between her and her roommate, and may have even initially resisted involvement in the argument, the reports of the charging officers and Appellant's own statement indicate that Appellant did participate in a loud argument in the cafeteria that created "a disruption of institutional operations." DOC Disciplinary Code § 2.12. Therefore, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support Appellant's disciplinary conviction.

The Department provided Appellant with the due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment before revoking her sentence-related credits as punishment in a disciplinary proceeding. Accordingly, the Department's decision to deny Appellant's grievance is affirmed.

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



Administrative Law Judge

July 8, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. However, this set of safeguards is necessarily a limited one. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 560 ("[I]t is immediately apparent that one cannot automatically apply procedural rules designed for free citizens in an open society . . . to the very different situation presented by a disciplinary proceeding in a state prison.").

2. This review "does not require examination of the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility of witnesses, or weighing of the evidence," Hill, 472 U.S. at 455; rather, this standard only requires this tribunal to determine whether "there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the [prison official]." Id. at 455-56.

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