We have compiled a list of common parole questions that have been asked by our clients and have included them here for your review. If you have any questions concerning parole, revocations or grievances, please contact us.
The laws surrounding parole eligibility and mandatory supervision are very complicated for those who don’t deal with them every day. Frequent changes in the law can create confusion among lawyers as to which law applies to a particular inmate. Fortunately, there’s a simple rule: the law in effect on the date that the first element of the offense was committed governs an inmate’s eligibility for release on parole or to mandatory supervision. The effective date of most statutory amendments is the last day of August or the first day of September after the respective legislative session.
The issue of applicable legislation can have a profound effect upon when an inmate achieves parole eligibility, how his case is voted and even whether or not he is subject to serving his entire sentence day for day. For example, an inmate who committed a crime involving the use of a deadly weapon prior to September 1, 1993 would be parole-eligible upon serving one-fourth of his sentence. However, the same inmate would have to serve one-half of his sentence to be parole-eligible if his offense was committed on or after September 1, 1993.
For most crimes, parole eligibility is based upon the offender earning 25% of his time credits. Since most offenders will receive good time credits toward the eligibility date, they will earn 25% of time credits well before they serve 25% of their actual time. Crimes of violence occurring on or after September 1, 1993 require offenders to serve 50% of their sentence without any credit for good time.
In deciding which offenders will be released to supervision, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is free to consider a wide range of data. They are not limited to the facts underlying the specific offense and conviction that resulted in an offender being incarcerated. They may take into account:
charges that were dismissed as part of a plea bargain
prior criminal history
previous failed periods of supervision of probation and parole
They will look closely at how the offender has conducted himself or herself while incarcerated:
has the offender participated in available programming
has the offender complied with all institutional rules
They will also look at family and community support as well as the opportunity and probability for employment and stability upon release.
The bottom line is that the Board is free to consider anything and everything available regarding the offender.
Parole is the discretionary and conditional release of an eligible inmate sentenced to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Parole allows the inmate to serve the remainder of his sentence under the supervision of the Pardons and Paroles Division. Parole eligibility occurs when an offender has served enough time to be considered for parole by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The Board members and Commissioners are located in six different offices throughout the State of Texas. The prison location of the offender determines which group or panel will vote the case. Unlike parole hearings that you often see on television, the offender rarely ever sees a voting member of the panel. The members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles votes cases by reviewing the offender’s file.
The file is put into the parole review process approximately six months before it is to be voted. Files may be voted earlier than the designated review date. When the file arrives at the Board office, it will be assigned to a first and second voter. The voters review the files individually. If the second voter agrees with the vote entered by the lead voter, a decision is made. If the lead voter and the second voter differ, the file will then go the third voter in the office.
After considering an inmate for parole, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has three options. They may:
Grant a parole date;
Deny parole and set a new date for further consideration (a “Set-Off”). Under current rules, a case may be set off for one to three years; or
Give the offender a “Serve-All”, which is a decision not to grant parole and not to review the inmate for parole at any future date. An inmate given a serve-all will only be released by operation of law (a discharge of the entire sentence or release to mandatory supervision.)
In 1985, the Texas legislature mandated that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles include parole guidelines, with minimum release criteria, in parole decision-making. The enabling legislation required the guidelines to set criteria for making parole decisions.
Based on research, the guidelines were to consider the seriousness of the offense (policy) and the likelihood of a favorable parole outcome (risk). [See §508.036 of the TX Government Code.] In 1987 the Board formally adopted parole guidelines.
In 1996, the Criminal Justice Policy Council reviewed the Board’s use of the guidelines and recommended revising them to take a comprehensive approach to parole decision-making.
After extensive review, the Board issued a Request for Proposals for consulting services to develop a revised parole guidelines system. The Board contracted with Security Response Technologies, Inc. to develop new guidelines, which were adopted by the Board at its January 2001 meeting.
In 2012, the Board revised the guidelines based on a revalidation study of the original risk scale.
Components of the Guidelines
The revised parole guidelines consist of two major components that interact to provide a single score. The first is a Risk Assessment Instrument that weighs both static and dynamic factors associated with the offender’s record. The other component is Offense Severity class.
Risk Assessment Instrument
Static factors are those associated with the offender’s prior criminal record. They do not change. Dynamic factors reflect characteristics the offender has shown since being incarcerated and can change over time.
Static factors include:
Age at first admission to a juvenile or adult correctional facility
History of supervisory release revocations for felony offenses
The commitment offense.
Dynamic factors include:
Offender’s current age
Whether the offender is a confirmed security threat group (gang) member
Education, vocational and certified on-the-job training programs completed during the present incarceration
Prison disciplinary conduct
Current prison custody level.
An offender can be assigned 0-10 points on static factors and 0-9 points on dynamic factors. A low score is associated with low risk. The higher the score, the greater the risk the offender presents for a successful parole:
Score Assigned Risk Level Based on the total of static and dynamic factor points, the risk level to be assigned to the offender should be determined below:
3 or less
3 or less
Offense Severity Class
Members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles have assigned an offense severity ranking to every one of the 2,586 felony charges in the Criminal Code. Offense Severity classes range from Low for non-violent crimes such as credit card abuse, to Highest for capital murder. An offender’s most serious active offense is assigned an Offense Severity Class according to the established list.
The Parole Guidelines Score
After both of the above factors have been considered, the two components of the guidelines are then merged into a matrix that creates the offender’s Parole Guidelines Score based on the intersection of his risk level and the offense severity rating separate risk scales have been developed for male and female offenders. Parole Guidelines Scores range from 1 for an individual with the poorest probability for success, up to 7 for an offender with the greatest probability of success.
OFFENSE SEVERITY CLASS
The higher an offender’s score, the better risk he is predicted to be to complete parole. The guidelines are not automatic, nor is the parole guidelines score presumptive as to whether an offender will be paroled. Board members retain the discretion to vote outside the guidelines when the circumstances of an individual case merit their doing so.
“Mandatory Supervision” is the release of an inmate when the inmate’s calendar time served plus earned good time credits equals the inmate’s total sentence. For example: if an inmate had a five year sentence, after accumulating 60 months worth of time credits, the decision to release the inmate to supervision would become mandatory by operation of law.
However, for those inmates whose offense conduct occurred on or after September 1, 1996, release to Mandatory Supervision is no longer mandatory! Due to legislative changes to the statute, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles must now review all Mandatory Supervision release cases. If the Board determines that release to Mandatory Supervision is not in the best interests of the public, they may deny such release.
Only in Texas could a “mandatory release” become a “discretionary mandatory release”! An inmate released to Mandatory Supervision is subject to the same terms and conditions as an inmate released to Parole.
Just because an inmate is released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision does not mean that he is home free. Unfortunately, parole revocations in Texas are very common, and can occur for a variety of reasons.
Grounds for Revocation
A person who has been released to supervision may be administratively re-taken into custody if:
He has been released while ineligible for release;
He has been arrested for an offense committed subsequent to his release;
There is a verified complaint stating that he has violated a term or condition of release; or
There is reliable evidence that he has exhibited behavior that indicates that he poses a danger to society. (see Section 508.252, Government Code).
The most common allegations leading to revocations are new law violations and administrative violations. We are beginning to see more parole violator warrants being issued for offenders who are subject to specialized sex offender caseloads based upon the “danger to society” standard. In most of these cases, the warrants appear to have issued when the parolee failed to comply with a condition of therapy, or when a neighbor or former spouse calls the supervising officer with a complaint. The issuance of a violation warrant has the effect of tolling the running of the period of supervision. See Section 508.253, Government Code. A person arrested on a violation warrant, or “blue warrant,” remains confined pending a hearing on the violation. Bail is not available for person confined on blue warrants.
The Hearing Process
In the past, the law required that a hearing be held within 120 days, or the offender be released to a parole summons. This law no longer exists.
Now, the revocation hearing must be held not later than the 41st day after the date of arrest on the blue warrant, unless the person is subject to pending criminal charges that have not been adjudicated, or he has been transferred from a county jail to a community residential facility, or he is in custody in another state or federal correctional facility.
Depending on the nature of the allegations of violation, an individual may be entitled to a Preliminary Hearing as well as a final Revocation Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing establishes whether or not probable cause exists to believe that the person violated at least one of the conditions of release. If probable cause is established, a Revocation Hearing will be held to determine whether or not the allegations can be proved by a preponderance of credible evidence. Each of the hearings consist of a fact-finding phase and an adjustment phase. The purpose of the adjustment phase is to determine how well the individual has done since his release to supervision and to determine the seriousness of the violation in the overall context of the persons adjustment to society.
The inmate is entitled to written notice of the allegations of violation. He is entitled to disclosure of the evidence against him. He has a right to be represented by counsel and a right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. The inmate is also entitled to request that subpoenas be issued to secure the attendance of either adverse or friendly witnesses.
Upon finding that the inmate violated at least one of the terms or conditions of supervision, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles may:
Withdraw the violation warrant and continue the person on supervision under the same or modified conditions of release
Order that the inmate be continued on supervision after spending a period of time in an Intermediate Sanctions Facility
Revoke the inmate’s parole and return him to prison. If parole is revoked, the person returns to prison with calendar time credits only
In certain limited situations the offender may be entitled to time credits from the date of release from prison to the date of the issuance of the parole violator’s warrant.
Legal representation is not required and most offenders go through the parole review system without the assistance of legal counsel. State statutes require that only lawyers licensed in Texas can represent an offender before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Non-lawyers who offer parole package services cannot appear before the Board.
If you are going to seek the services of a parole attorney for your loved one, you should aggressively question the lawyer as to whether or not they do only parole work and how long they have been engaged in such work. Many lawyers are beginning to accept parole cases and they have little experience and even less knowledge of the ins and outs of the system.
In Texas there are only 5-6 lawyers who limit their practices to matters before the Parole Board. You will find that fees vary from very little (attorneys who have high volume and low fees) to a considerable amount of money. We are on the upper end of the fee structure and provide legal services in this area that are a great deal more thorough and sophisticated than the other lawyers in this field.
For over 30 years, the firm has limited its practice to matters involving parole in the State of Texas. Gary appears regularly before the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Commissioners. Gary is very familiar with their backgrounds and their attitudes regarding release decisions. This enables them to tailor the presentations to the individual voters. Additionally, the Board members are all well acquainted with Gary and respect the effort he puts into representing the interests of his clients.
Unlike the practice in other firms, all offender interviews and Board presentations are personally conducted by Gary. The firm does not condone or engage in the practice of sending out a paralegal or junior lawyer to perform work that we are hired to do. To us it is a simple matter of respect. Families are hiring us on the strength of our reputation and the offenders and their families are putting their future in our hands. We owe them the respect of traveling to the units and going personally to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than delegating this important responsibility.
Accurate advice can be provided to the offender and their family members in diverse areas such as parole procedures, supervision issues, medical care, time credits, visitation issues and revocations. Given the strength of our staff, even when we are not present in the office the needs of our clients can be met.
The bottom line is that we offer the highest quality professional services built on a reputation of credibility and respect of the decision-makers. We care about and try to address the needs of our clients, keeping in mind the fact that the families as well as the offenders are traumatized by the intricacies of a system that is arbitrary and uncaring. While we can’t change the system or solve all its problems, we can try to help you through this very difficult time. Our goal is to bring your loved one home at the earliest possible time and to treat you with respect in the process. This is what separates us from the rest.