A federal judge on Thursday issued a stern rebuke to state corrections officials for the way they classify some parolees as sex offenders even though the defendants have never been convicted of sex crimes.It sounds like Judge Sparks is fed up and about to get serious with the Board of Pardons and Parole if they don't soon change these policies. Congrats in particular to Bill Habern, whose parole-focused firm out of Huntsville has been hammering away on these important due process claims for some time.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks also voiced frustration with state parole officials for ignoring earlier court decisions and a previous directive by him and ordered the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to review whether to leave parolee Ray Curtis Graham on sex offender restrictions.
"It's time for the parole division and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop being defensive and start trying not to use technical defenses," Sparks said, in ruling that the restrictions were not imposed on Graham legally and that parole officials ignored a subsequent court warning about the deficiency.
"The undisputed evidence established no official involved in the ... process has ever made the necessary finding that Mr. Graham constituted a threat to society by his lack of sexual control." ...
In January 2008, Sparks warned the parole board that he had serious concerns about their policy on imposing restrictions on some parolees. For Graham, that meant requiring him to undergo sex-abuse therapy and barring him from becoming a minister and going to church, among other things.
In a parole system known for its secrecy — decisions are usually made behind closed doors, and most parole files are not public record — Thursday's development marked a rare crack in that armor, although not the first. In three other cases in two years, Austin federal judges have questioned the legality of the state's policy by which restrictions are placed on parolees. Across Texas, parole officials said, more than a dozen other lawsuits on the issue are pending. ...
While the case involved only Graham, Sparks said he believes the parole board has illegally placed restrictions on perhaps thousands of parolees who have been classified as sex offenders.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Federal judge: Parole board may have improperly labeled thousands as 'sex offenders'
While I was out of town last week, federal District Judge Sam Sparks issued an important ruling criticizing the secretive process by which the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole makes decisions about release conditions for sex offenders. Here's how the story by Mike Ward began in Friday's Austin Statesman: