Bryan Collier, the state's parole director, was named deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the No. 2 position in the state's correctional system, on Tuesday. ...
Collier, 42, has been director of the parole division for the past 5 1/2 years.
Collier started with the corrections agency in 1985, and he has worked his way up through the ranks, according to agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. He has worked as both a correctional officer and a parole officer, Lyons said.
For anyone who watches Texas corrections closely, this move inspires little confidence. Under Collier's leadership, he and Parole Board chair Rissie Owens have together driven down Texas parole rates to their lowest point in state history, which all the number crunchers say is the primary cause of the state's prison overcrowding crisis.
Mr. Collier obviously bears some of the responsibility for allowing widespread fraud in the parole system uncovered last year. The Austin Statesman reported that hucksters were "using the secretive nature of the parole process to cheat clients." The Texas Civil Rights Project last year filed a lawsuit aimed at making the parole process more transparent.
OTOH, if Collier's parole division wasn't monitoring for fraud, they were paying close attention to the media. Under his leadership, by policy, TDCJ's parole division gave an extra supervisor's review before recommending release of any inmate just because their case received media coverage before and during their incarceration. That means if the press covered your case, even if the coverage was in your favor, you get an extra hurdle to clear before parole is approved.
One wishes such strict attention were paid to the parole division's own policies and practices. During Collier's tenure, Texas was more likely to follow parole guidelines for releasing violent offenders than those who pose less of a threat.
I've never met Bryan Collier. I have nothing against him personally and I hope he can help turn the troubled agency around. But as someone who began working at TDCJ when he was 20 and was promoted through the ranks, he's not the kind of guy you hire to reform anything. He's more the kind of guy you hire to keep your problems out of the papers.
As we've seen at the Texas Youth Commission, that strategy only works for so long.