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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Chris Blackwood, #213015 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Chris Blackwood, #213015

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter comes before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Chris Blackwood, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (Department"). In his appeal, Blackwood alleges that he has been kept in security detention since September 2000. Blackwood further alleges that security detention amounts to solitary confinement.

On September 5, 2001, the Division issued an En Banc Order in McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001). The 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, Blackwood challenges his custody status. As such, I find that this tribunal has jurisdiction to hear Blackwood's appeal.

To obtain relief, Blackwood must show that the Department abridged a liberty interest in his custody status without due process of law. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974); Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 369, 527 S.E.2d at 750. Generally, an inmate has no liberty interest in his security and custody classification. Brown v. Evatt, 322 S.C. 189, 470 S.E.2d 848 (1996). However, if it imposes an "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life," an inmate's custody status infringes a protectable liberty interest. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 486 (1995). Cir.1998). No bright-line rule exists as to how lengthy a segregated, solitary confinement must be to be considered atypical and significant. See Colon v. Howard, 215 F.3d 227 (2d Cir.2000). However, segregative sentences of 125 to 288 days have been characterized as "relatively long," thus necessitating a "specific articulation of ... factual findings" before a tribunal can properly term the confinement typical or insignificant. See Hynes v. Squillace, 143 F.3d 653 (2d Cir. 1998).

In this case, in alleging that he has been in virtual solitary confinement for nearly eighteen months, Blackwood has made allegations that suggest his confinement may constitute an atypical or significant hardship. (1) As such, Blackwood is entitled to some due process, which would include, at a minimum, an opportunity to be heard and present evidence before a fair and impartial decision maker, who prepares a written decision. That written decision must include specific findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon those facts and must be provided to Blackwood. However, the Record reflects that Blackwood has had no opportunity to be heard and present evidence. In addition, the Department has made no "specific articulation of factual findings" or conclusions of law with regard to Blackwood's confinement. Consequently, this case is hereby REMANDED to the Department for it to provide Blackwood with all process he is due consistent with the provisions of this Order.

In light of this decision, all other issues raised and motions made by either party are deemed denied.





April 4, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. This is not to suggest that Blackwood's confinement actually violates a protected liberty interest. Instead, the circumstances of Blackwood's confinement, as described by him, implicate a liberty interest, entitling him to some process.

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