Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
24779 - Busby, et a. v. Moore

Davis Adv. Sh. No. 14
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

Melvin Busby, Bobby

Blake, Danny Green,

Calvin Rankin,

Anthony Simpson, Lee

Evans, Ronnie Sullivan,

David Capps, Jerry

Latimer, Sherman

Rider, Rodney T.

Arnold, Charles Smith,

Freddie Berry, Dale

Wright, Eric Sullivan,

Charles Lofton, and

Timothy Passmore,

Applicants

of whom Melvin Busby,

Calvin Rankin, Lee

Evans, Sherman W.

Rider, Rodney T.

Arnold, Charles Lofton

are

Petitioners,

v.

Michael Moore,

Director, South

Carolina Department of

Corrections,

Respondent.

and

Timothy Young,

Norman Sherman,

Ronald Jones, George

Robinson, Phillip Clay,

Brian Mack, Terry

p.3


BUSBY, ET AL., v. MOORE

Collins, Claude

Johnson, David F.

King, Derrick Latimer,

Mark Cunningham,

David Case, Emmanuel

Flemming, Clifton

Scott, Danny Bailey,

Irvin Wilson, Harold

Blassingame, Andrew

Lusk, George Phillips,

James Allen Taylor,

and Bobby Gresham,

Applicants,

of whom Norman

Sherman, Ronald

Jones, Phillip Clay,

Terry Collins, David F.

King, Irvin Wilson,

Andrew Lusk, James

Allen Taylor, and

Bobby Gresham are

Petitioners,

v.

Michael Moore,

Director, South

Carolina Department of

Corrections,

Respondent.

and

Michael T. Reidel, J.B.

Hardee, Clary Dillard,

Willie Workman,

Vincent Brown, Dennis

Sullivan, William

Smith, Rene

Hernandez, Dean B.

Hawkins, Richard D.

Kidd, John A. Hagood,

and Michael Earl

Wilson,

Applicants,

p.4


BUSBY, ET AL., v. MOORE

of whom Dean B.

Hawkins and Richard

D. Kidd are

Petitioners,

v.

Michael Moore,

Director, South

Carolina Department of

Corrections,

Respondent.

Appeal From Greenville County

Frank P. McGowan, Jr., Post-Conviction Relief

Judge

Opinion No. 24779

Submitted February 10, 1997 - Filed April 13, 1998

AFFIRMED

Assistant Appellate Defender M. Anne Pearce,

South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, of

Columbia, for petitioners.

Attorney General Charles Molony Condon, Deputy

Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant

Deputy Attorney General Teresa A. Knox, and

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Teresa N.

Cosby, all of Columbia, for respondent.

p.5


BUSBY, ET AL., v. MOORE

PER CURIAM: Applicants, all inmates in the custody of the

South Carolina Department of Corrections, filed individual applications for

post-conviction relief (PCR). Their cases were consolidated, and after a

hearing, respondent's motion for summary judgment was granted.

Petitioners now seek a writ of certiorari. We grant the writ, dispense with

further briefing, and affirm.

Section 24-13-21 O(A) of the Code states:

A prisoner convicted of an offense against this

State, . . . , 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 twenty days for each

month served. When two or more consecutive

sentences are to be served, the aggregate of the

several sentences is the basis upon which the good

conduct credit is computed.

S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-210(A) (Supp. 1996). Petitioners argue the

language of this statute entitles them to have credit for good conduct

calculated and applied at the beginning of their sentences. The PCR judge

found petitioners misinterpreted the statute. We agree.

The Court's primary function in interpreting a statute is to

ascertain the intent of the General Assembly. State v. Baker, 310 S.C.

510, 427 S.E.2d 670 (1993). A statute must receive a practical and

reasonable interpretation consonant with the design of the legislature. Id.

This Court will reject any interpretation that leads to an unreasonable

result. Carolina Power & light Co. v. Pageland, 321 S.C. 538, 471 S.E.2d

137 (1996).

The language of the statute shows the legislature did not

intend for prisoners to get credit for good behavior at the outset of their

sentences. The legislature's use of the past tense shows an intent to

reward inmates only after they exhibit good behavior; a prisoner may

p.6


BUSBY, ET AL., v. MOORE

benefit from this section if he or she "has faithfully observed all the rules"

and "has not been subjected to punishment for misbehavior."

Furthermore, petitioner's interpretation of the statute leads to

results that could not have been intended by the legislature. The

calculation advanced by petitioners reduces the time prisoners serve to

one-third of their sentences. Under the calculation advanced by the

Department of Corrections, a perfectly behaved prisoner's sentence would

be reduced by three-fifths. This result more closely reflects the

legislature's intent to reward prisoners for good behavior, not give them a

gift before they have behaved at all.

According to petitioners, the phrase "beginning with the day on

which the service of [a] sentence commences to run" dictates the full

amount of good conduct credit should be computed at the outset of the

sentence. In their view, entitlement vests on the first day of the prison

term, therefore the computation should be made at the outset of the prison

term. The meaning of this phrase is unambiguous. It merely means

prisoners do not have to serve any time before they are eligible to earn

credit for good behavior; it does not mean prisoners do not have to serve

time before they actually earn credit for good behavior.

Finally, petitioners argue the last sentence of this subsection

supports their position that good time credits should be computed and

awarded at the beginning of prison sentences. That sentence states,

"When two or more consecutive sentences are to be served, the aggregate

of the several sentences is the basis upon which the good conduct credit is

computed." S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-210(A) (Supp. 1997). Petitioners argue

this provision is logical only if good conduct credits are calculated at the

outset of the prison term; the provision has no meaning if good conduct

credit must be earned month by month because the aggregate of sentences

would be an irrelevant number.

This provision must be read together with the use of the past

tense in the other parts of this subsection. Statutory conflicts should be

harmonized to give both provisions effect in light of legislative intent.

Adoptive Parents v. Biological Parents, 315 S.C. 535, 446 S.E.2d 404

(1994); Neel v. Shealy, 261 S.C. 266, 199 S.E.2d 542 (1973). In light of

the legislature's use of the past tense and its intent to provide an

incentive for good behavior, this sentence signifies that where consecutive

sentences are involved, the credits for good behavior are available

throughout the entire cumulative period of incarceration.

p.7


BUSBY, ET AL., v. MOORE

Petitioners' interpretation of the statute is flawed.

Accordingly, the order of the post conviction relief judge is

AFFIRMED.

p.8