Appeals

In Re: Long Term Administrative Segregation of Inmates Designated as Five Percenters

In Re: Long Term Administrative Segregation of Inmates Designated as Five Percenters,174 F.3d 464 (4th Cir. 1999) is a published April 1999 opinion from the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.  After a series of violent prison incidents involving involving members of the Five Percent Nation of Islam (the Five Percenters), the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) classified the Five Percenters as a Security Threat Group (STG).  Acting under its Security Threat Group policy, the SCDC then transferred all Five Percenters to administrative segregation or to maximum custody confinement.

The Five Percenters then brought suit in Federal Distrct Court, raising challenges to this policy under the Free Exercise Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.  I served as local counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights in this lawsuit.  After the district court granted summary judgment to the SCDC, the Five Percenters appealed.

The Fourth Circuit ruled that because the designation of the Five Percenters as an STG was a rational response to a threat to prison safety–a concern the court held was peculiarly within the province of penal authorities–members of the group were allowed to be held in administrative segregation or to maximum custody confinement without an individualized finding of dangerousness.