Monday, May 28, 2007

"Pre-Parole" An Oxymoron Under Current Texas Parole Board

Texas Parole Board chief Rissie Owens doesn't care if the Legislature created special programs and facilities to guide and implement the parole process, she told the Dallas Morning News ("Inmates fight the prison of fading 'pre-parole' system," May 28) the board still won't grant parole to eligible inmates until it's good and ready.

Repeatedly throughout the 80th Texas Legislature, experts from Dr. Tony Fabelo to the Legislative Budget Board to TDCJ to the Chairs of the Senate Criminal Justice and House Corrections Committee all fingered the parole board's super-low approval rates as a primary cause of Texas prison overcrowding. This Dallas News article shows an example why. Owens and the board simply ignored programs and processes legislators set up in the past, casting doubt for this writer whether she and the board can be counted on to live up to their recent commitments to improve parole rates. Reports the News:

the Mineral Wells unit is a "pre-parole transfer facility" in name only – a remnant of an ambitious program launched a quarter-century ago aimed at relieving prison overcrowding and reducing repeat offenders.

Three inmates have gone "over the fence" since August. Others have paid hundreds of dollars to join a lawsuit protesting the parole system. And still others have sent lengthy letters to the "free world" venting their frustration.

It has reached such a critical point that officials have started moving some of the inmates back into regular prison facilities for security reasons. Between 50 and 60 inmates who had been denied "mandatory release" four times were transferred .

"If you've been denied mandatory supervision four times, then those offenders may become more frustrated," said Bryan Collier, director of the parole division. "And then they feel they may be more prone to [escape]."

Sonny Morris understands – he's been denied parole twice since arriving here.

"I can't do my time here," he wrote in mid-May. "I'm desperate to get home ... to get back to TDC and out of this ... abyss called Mineral Wells."

Shortly after that letter, the convicted burglar from Dallas committed a minor infraction in the hope that it would get him a transfer out of the parole division and back to the prison system. He asked an officer to smuggle contraband out of the unit. Until then, he had worked hard to maintain a record of good behavior so he would be granted parole.

His plan worked. He is due to be transferred to another unit – without the perks of "pre-parole."

Still, Mr. Morris hopes his chances of release will be better there than in Mineral Wells.

Only about one in 10 Mineral Wells inmates is any closer to release than inmates elsewhere in the system, estimated Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The other 90 percent simply have been assigned there by the parole division of TDCJ and haven't been approved for release by the board.

Because of the name, inmates "probably think ... based on what 'pre-parole' would mean in the perfect world – that they're going to be released," said Ms. Owens.

"The purpose, the role, whatever of the pre-parole transfer facility? Talk to TDCJ," Ms. Owens said.

Yeah, I can understand why the inmates would "probably think" that! What inmates couldn't know is that Rissie Owens and the Board of Pardons and Parole routinely and arrogantly flout attempts by elected officials to guide their work, which is a big reason we face a prison overcrowding crisis today.

As mentioned previously, Rissie Owens' husband is Ed Owens, the current Czar at the Texas Youth Commission, placing an inordinate amount of authority over the state's corrections system in this one household.

Testimony earlier this year to the Sunset Commission revealed that the Board of Pardons and Parole is MORE likely to follow their own guidelines for releasing dangerous offenders than nonviolent ones. Ignoring the intended purpose of the pre-parole facility is another example of the BPP failing to exercise its power in the way the Legislature intended. As for "why?," add that, I guess to the growing list of questions Rissie Owens won't answer.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Texas BPP has been working to obtain independence from TDCJ in subtle ways for a long time. Now this goal is out in the open. Justice for the incarcerated in Texas is suffering from this tug of war!

No organization should have the power the Legislators have given to the BPP. Judges, Juries and Prosecutors working on a plea bargain routinely use the parole guidelines in their consideration of sentences.

The fact that the BPP can ignore all that is a denial of the due process rights invisioned by our constitution. The incarcerated and thier family who are cought up in the current dysfunctional system of lies and false hope deserve better.

Changes will come and folks like Rissie Owens will find themselves out in the cold if they don't work to improve this mess.

Anonymous said...

If the Speaker of the House doesn't follow the rules, what makes you think his minions would?
Parole is a joke. The whole mess needs to be cleaned from top to bottom!!!

sunray's wench said...

This woman makes my blood boil ~ she disgusts me. If an inmate is eligible for parole, has kept a clean record, and yet is turned down FOUR TIMES, shouldnt that inmate at least be told why, and what he or she can do about it? Can we not have some absolutely transparent requirements for parole, just a simple list of maybe 5 or 6 things, that everyone knows an inmate must have or achieve to gain parole, and then can we please make everyone including Madame Rissie stick to it? It makes absolutely no sense at all for inmates with good records (whether they qualify for good time credit or not) to be actively seeking to pick up a case just to be sent back into general population.

People often ask me why TDCJ isnt called a Department of Corrections like most other states. I explain that Texas has it's very own brand of criminal justice, and its definition is far removed from any you'll find in the Oxford English dictionary.

Anonymous said...

The biggest "oxymoron" is "discretionary,mandatory" release! It's either mandatory or it's not ! Which moron legislator
mandated discretion to the BPP ? It seems to me that once that discretion is taken away again , the mandatory is back in place . So who so ever giveth should take it away, simple ! Wow, my brain hurts from this one !

outspoken woman....... said...

Clearly, the cocky attitude and queen like mentality Miss Rissie assumes when questioned about the parole board and/or parole board deicisions continues to make me question why our legislators have not demanded an accounting from her and the governor who appointed her. Seems that if your last name is Owens you can secure any position you want, and usually one that can affect the lives of entire families. I keep wondering what information the Owens family might have that allows them to keep positions that are so high profile while they don't manage the positions with professionalism or candor.
In case you don't know it...the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is broken. Not only is Pre-Parole an oxymoron,,,put the words descretionary~mandatory release together and the oxymoron is mind bending. If parole is mandatory they are supposed to let the prisoner go. If it is descretionary it means a group of people who make up a particular board get to decide if the prisoner is released. The laws have been changed so often I don't think anyone knows what they are doing anymore.
If the citizenry of Texas wants to know how their tax dollar is spent they need to ask why we still have so many prisoners incarcerated in a system that is bursting at the seams. They then need to question why we need more prisons if we have a system in place to parole prisoners. To top off the problem, we have a system that cannot adequately man the prisons we already have. Add all these issues together and you have a recipe for pending disaster. God willing, something significant will be done before any serious incidents occur.
It is past time for our legislators to demand an accounting from Miss Rissie. It is time to give serious consideration to evaluating and changing our parole board and how they operate. It is time the members of the parole board see each prisoner as a human being and act accordingly. This isn't some special on TV where prisoners sit before a panel and answer questions. In Texas a prisoner's future is determined by a select few who have no actual knowledge of who that prisoner really is. The excuse used most often for denial is "nature of the crime." No prisoners can change that. They can, however, change who they are and how they think. No score pad or matrix system can or should define a person.
It is past time to fix this problem.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible there is an explanation for discretionary/mandatory? Perhaps one law makes parole mandatory, while a subsequent law in a different time period gives the PB discretionary authority. Some paroles are mandatory, and some paroles are discretionary..?? Could the one crime and parole be discretionary and another crime and parole be mandatory??

Anonymous said...

In order to help cure the problems faced in prison overcrowding, fire Rissie Owens!!

She thinks she is queen of something and what she says is law. She needs to hauled in court and made to answer for her misdeeds. Fire her!! She is the problem! Why can you in the Legislature not see this, she is not a nice person and send Ed with her.

Anonymous said...

attorney Norman L Sirak has put together a class action lawsuit that all readers need to be aware of. See www.fixtexasparole.com and www.parolereform.com. Pastors at local churches need to be made aware of this lawsuit so that they can inform their parishoners who have loved ones behind bars that have been denied parole unjustly. Use the churches, people, to get the word out about this class action lawsuit. Expensive Texas lawyers are going out of their way to badmouth this lawsuit since they see it as a danger to their revenue. Well, I have already wasted thousands on a high priced Texas parole lawyer and I figure that paying a mere 400 dollars to Mr Sirak to join his lawsuit can't be a bigger disappointment than the one I have already gotten from the Texas bar association.

Anonymous said...

If you live outside Texas and have a friend or relative inside TDCJ there is a little known program called the Interstate Corrections Compact (ICC) that enables states to trade convicts between prison systems. For additional information call the ICC office in Huntsville on 936-437-8635 and ask how to apply. As you might suspect TDCJ uses this program RARELY since big prison construction budgets require lots of crowded convicts but you have nothing to lose by asking---and don't forget to spread the word at your church or MYSPACE/YOUTUBE account. TDCJ deserves a good turn from everyone. Since this program is used so rarely by TDCJ it might make for a good class action lawsuit by an attorney. Perhaps Mr Norman Sirak? My brother, William Harrison, 864645, is a member of Mr Sirak's lawsuit against the Parole Board.

Anonymous said...

Well wake up world. Read prison talk online in the mineral wells section and find out what CCA really is about. Sparse food portions, model prisoners never paroled out related to the $50 to $60 per day they get per in-mate.Oh, least we forget the high-priced vending machines with stale food. Wake up world. It may be you or your loved ones next. Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye. Has anyone heard any of the 2presidental candidates speak of this. It's your tax dollars at work for in-humane treatment. Many are in for DWI'S who are placed with violent criminals. Rehab people is the answer, that's where my tax dollars needs to go, ALONG WITH MY ENTIRE VETERAN FAMILY WHO HAS FOUGHT FOR THIS COUNTY. One more talking point. Please read post by SusanE stating CO's are bringing in drugs as well to sell to in-mates. If in-mates do not agree with the illegitimate games the guards are playing, they are written up. Way to much to comment in small blog. But the truth will be come out.

Anonymous said...

Total agreement with Pre-Parole an Oxymoron. So true. And we wonder why Texas prison populaton outnumbers California?? Check out CCA are they in Bed with the Texas BPP? Model prisoners serve out full time, if paroled out only 2 months early is the norm. PEOPLE PLEASE WAKE UP, YOUR CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN POSSIBLY ARE NEXT. YES IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOUR FAMILY.

Anonymous said...

So very true. Model prisoners are denied parole 3-4 times. Hence the constant riots, they are angry individuals, as you would be. PLease help stop the corruption at Mineral Wells. Pre-Parole Release, that's a joke.BPP another joke, no 3 people should be given that much power and no oversight into their judgements. Is CCA paying them off?

Anonymous said...

Mineral Wells, CCA

Gang is suppose to jump a man tomorrow related to failure to "Pay for Protection". This man has no money, but gang leader said "his boys would lie on him and say it was for drugs, etc.". I believe SOME are aware of this and turn a blind eye. It's suppose to be on third floor, roof or something to that effect. Mineral Wells, CCA is still alive and thriving with denials from BPP related to CO'S comments in an in-mates file if they don't play the game. God bless our country as this is a very corrupt system.

Anonymous said...

Mineral Wells, CCA

Gang is suppose to jump a man tomorrow related to failure to "Pay for Protection". This man has no money, but gang leader said "his boys would lie on him and say it was for drugs, etc.". I believe SOME are aware of this and turn a blind eye. It's suppose to be on third floor, roof or something to that effect. Mineral Wells, CCA is still alive and thriving with denials from BPP related to CO'S comments in an in-mates file if they don't play the game. God bless our country as this is a very corrupt system.

P.S. said...

In regards to the People of Texas thinking it's ok for the Texas Parole Board to set off inmates for more time than is allowed by law and just keep them in prison because they deserve it because the broke the law. Most of the Inmates civil rights have been violated over & over again because parole is allowed because the Senators who pass the laws aren't speaking up when the laws they passed aren't being carried out as per the law. I'm ashamed to claim texas as a state when the people of the state allow the state to violate it"s citizens' civil rights in violation of the Constitution of the USA. I bet most of the Inmates that are Incarcerated have had years of their civil rights have been violated, and no one cares or does any thing about it all these years.So when is the corruption gonna stop, texas citizens must look at all cases that are over turned due to DNA evidence. My Brother is a Outside Trustee working at the dog kennels at the hughes unit, he is taken in the woods for hours at a time, and left alone for the dogs to track him and he has never done wrong showing he can be trusted in public, and parole contimues to set him off. My Brother is James E. Brown #669220, RT @ Box 4400, Gatesville, TX 76597, and he has proof of how Texas Parole violated his Civil Rights,
Peace,
P.S.

Anonymous said...

you want to fix pre parole at mineral wells? easy pay attention, bpp should be PART of TDCJ, not seperate, fire the dirty guards, let the honest hardworking ones ENFORCE the rules. let us punish, under the tdcj policies, the rule breakers, both inmates and guards. Most inmates just want to finish their time and go home, MOST correction officers there want to be able to have a standard set of rules to live by, and it would help the guys to be able to FOLLOW the rules if they didnt get changed on a daily basis. TDCJ rules, weed out the bad apples of both inmate and officer, make it pre parole like it should be.

Anonymous said...

this is all about profit. the people in charge of this have investments in the system somehow. the more people in the system the more the taxpayers have to pay these officials. if you follow the money you will always find the root of all evil. evil comes in inmates and parole officials also.