The legislature may change the Parole system. Again. Already, those seeking to understand the convoluted and confusing parole system often face a maze of mid-level officials, each of which gives them a different story. As a Texas parole attorney, I am often asked to help those faced with a parole officer threatening to revoke their parole or those who are incarcerated and have an upcoming parole hearing.
As described in a recent Austin American Statesman article , the Sunset Advisory Commission, which reviews state agencies to see if they are still needed and if any part of them should be changed, recently took a closer look at the Texas parole system.
Right now the Parole Board reviews inmates up for parole and grants or denies parole after an individual review process. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, both runs the public prisons in Texas and oversees the parole officers that monitor people while they are on parole.
Although the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended no change, several of we parole attorneys have urged allowing the Parole Board to take over supervising people while out on parole. Why? Crazy?
Well, first, that’s how things used to be over 240 moons (or 20 years) ago. Why did the people who run the prisons get to also run supervising people on parole? Why did anyone think it was a good idea to separate decisions about to whom to grant parole from those about how to monitor those on parole?
Once upon a time, the idea was to streamline the parole supervision process and the transition to parole by allowing the same entity that supervises inmates to supervise parolees. At least, that is the justification on the books.
This makes very little sense to me. Prison is a very different environment than a half-way or three-quarters house, and far different from parole supervision while the person supervised tries to reintegrate into society. They call for totally different types of programs and supervision.
And it has not lead to the streamlined process the legislature once envisioned. Far from it, in fact. These days it is not uncommon for the Parole Board to grant one of my client’s parole and impose certain conditions only to have the TDCJ parole officer discard some or all of the conditions imposed by the Parole Board and impose different conditions the Parole Board never dreamed would apply.
And then, of course, if the person supervised has difficulty switching gears, TDCJ then seeks to revoke my client’s parole based on conditions the client did not anticipate when he worked so hard to be granted parole.
This type of confusion is all too common. It only serves to impose revocation hearings for technical violations that use up time and resources better spent on those truly violating the spirit of parole by reoffending. It also serves to confuse the parolee and the loved ones trying to help them because they get different instructions from different sources.
And the parolee never knows when the parole officer might decide to impose conditions previously ignored or seek to revoke their parole for violating a condition the parolee did not realize was required.
Whether they move parole supervision back under the control of the Parole Board or to some other entity or structure, I hope the legislature does something. Because my experience as a criminal defense lawyer and a Texas parole lawyer, and the experiences my client’s have described to me, all indicate to me that a serious change of some type is necessary.
If you, or your loved one, is struggling while on parole or struggling to make sure they make the best possible presentation before the Parole Board in seeking parole, call me today. I’d be happy to talk to you about how I can help.