Having talked to many inmates and the families that love them in my practice as a Central Texas Parole Attorney, I am well aware that much of the parole process can seem confusing and chaotic. Several routine portions of that process can take the inmate and or the family by surprise, leaving them frustrated, confused, and needlessly worried.
And of all of these portions of the process, the role of the Institutional Parole Officer or “IPO” confuses people the most.
Each unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or “TDCJ”, has one or more IPOs. A few months before a given person comes before the parole board for consideration, the IPO is tasked with gathering information on the person and creating a parole file for them. This file is what the Parole Board reviews when making their decision.
As part of the information gathering process the IPO will interview the incarcerated person, asking about what programs he/she has participated in, what work he/she has done around the jail, what plans he/she has for release and the like. This interview often scares the person and worries their family because the IPO gives their opinion on whether or not the person is likely to be granted parole and what conditions, if any the person might have to fulfill.
The problem is not that the IPO’s opinion is scary, but that many IPOs, in fact, the vast majority that have interviewed my clients, state their opinions as if they were fact. They interact with the client as if the IPO was himself/herself a member of the Parole Board.
They are not. It is important to understand that the IPO has NO decision-making authority. None. Not a single bit. In Texas only the Parole Board decides whether or not the incarcerated person is granted parole. Now, the IPO may have a lot of experience in TDCJ. They may have been doing their job a long time. They may have spoken with many inmates. They may speak with authority and know lots of large and complex words and phrases relating to prison and parole. Even so, they do not and cannot accurately and consistently predict what the Parole Board is likely to do, no matter how much they may believe they can.
Why? Because the Parole Board is broken up into several subdivisions and each subdivision reviews files from many different prison units. A given Parole Board office may review the files of all persons incarcerated at twenty or more different prison units. Thus, even if an individual IPO managed to monitor and follow the outcome of every person in their unit, something that would leave IPOs with very little time to do much else, they still would see only a drop in the bucket of all the cases before their subdivision of the Parole Board.
Now, of course, it is important to be polite and respectful to the IPO since they still have the file and the IPO will write a report/recommendation that will go in the file for review by the parole board. But when dealing with the IPO it is important not ot let their opinions overly concern you. Simply discuss the interview with your parole attorney to help you put the interview into proper perspective.
In addition to the interview, the IPO will gather all of the information that the particular unit where the IPO is assigned and that TDCJ in general has on the incarcerated person for the file they send to the parole board. A skilled parole lawyer can give you advice on steps you can take to make sure the information in your unit and TDCJ records is as positive and helpful as possible given the resources available to you and the particular programs and processes at your particular unit.
If you have more questions or concerns about your IPO or any part of the parole process please feel free to contact me.