GRIEVANCE NO. ACI 0969-00
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
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 Keith Gilliard appeals
the decision of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC or Department) to revoke sixty days of his "good-time" credit and to reprimand him as punishment for striking a DOC employee in violation of DOC Disciplinary Code §
1.03. 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 September 18, 2000, Lieutenant Douglas Lambright observed Appellant repeatedly kicking his cell door. Lieutenant
Lambright gave Appellant several orders to stop kicking the door, but Appellant continued to kick his cell door. In
response to Appellant's noncompliance with his orders, Lieutenant Lambright sprayed Appellant with mace. Appellant
then threw a white Styrofoam cup containing an unknown liquid at Lieutenant Lambright; the cup and its contents struck
the officer on his lower right arm. Accordingly, Appellant was charged with violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 1.03,
Striking an Employee with/without a Weapon. (1)
A hearing of the charge was held before a DOC Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) on September 25, 2000. At the close
of the hearing, the DHO found Appellant guilty of the charge and revoked sixty days of his good-time credit and
reprimanded him as punishment for the offense. Appellant appealed his conviction to the Department, and then to this
tribunal. On appeal, Appellant contends that his disciplinary conviction is not supported by the evidence and that the
Department failed to follow proper procedure in obtaining the conviction.
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 sixty days of his 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
In the present case, Appellant contends that the Department's decision to revoke his good-time credit was made in violation
of his 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. (2) 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). (3) 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 him 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. At the hearing,
Appellant was given the opportunity, through a counsel substitute, to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront his
accuser. The record reflects that Appellant was found guilty of violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 1.03, Striking an
Employee with/without a Weapon, based on the report and testimony of Lieutenant Lambright, and a written statement to
that effect was prepared by the hearing officer. After his conviction, Appellant filed a grievance and received a prompt
response from his warden, which Appellant then appealed to the Department. In its denial of his appeal, the Department
informed appellant of his 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.
The Department provided Appellant with the due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment before revoking his
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.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
JOHN D. GEATHERS
Administrative Law Judge
April 11, 2002
Columbia, South Carolina
1. Appellant was also charged with violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 2.13, Refusing or Failing to Obey Orders.
However, this charge was dropped at the disciplinary hearing as a lesser included offense of the primary charge. (Hr'g Tr.
2. 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.").
3. 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.