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:
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.

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.
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.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's time for the federal courts to butt the hell out of Texas' parole system.

Letsgetreal said...

It's time for the federal judges through out the country
to set these states straight on Constitutional law concerning human and civil rights.

Anonymous said...

The parole system is broken. They give these guys "Condition X" that is unbelieavably unconstitutional. ALL of them - not just the dangerous fellas, but ALL of them, including online chatters who chatted with teens as young adults (what's up with that? I only dated dudes in their 20's when I was 16!), consensual sex, urinating in public - someone that touched someone lightly on top of the clothing - come on -- these are NOT criminal behaviors that deserve Condition X. Read about Condition X, it is INSANE and each parole (and probation) officer is GOD and can do whatever they want and the parolees are too afraid to turn em in in fear of retaliation!

Our system is broken in Texas and there needs to be LOTS and LOTS of lawsuits against parole officers that think they're God, the Parole Board who can do whatever they want to, etc.

Congrats to Habern's law firm - get em and get em good. This fella was NEVER convicted of a sex crime!

Anonymous said...

It is about time someone of influence noticed the over classification of sex offenders.

The "Sex Offender" category is used far more liberally than it ought to be and effectively stigmatizes someone for life -- preventing many of them from reestablishing self-supporing lives on the assumption that they cannot or won't change. Yet the research on sex offenders shows that when provided constructive supervision and supportive assistance recidivism can be dramatically reduce. A 10 year program in Ontario Canada used Circles or Support and Accountability with 400 released sex offenders -- only 1 person recidivated in that time period.

Anonymous said...

The parole System sucks, and that is an understament. When my son was paroled in 2005, I asked for a copy of the parole papers that he signed (he came out of a juvie facility) so that I would be aware of the "rules" imposed on him and here it is 2009, he's about to come off parole (September) and I still have not gotten a copy of the papers even though i have asked Linda tierling and her staff for them by phone and by mail.

YES the parole system in Texas is so messed up and with them putting everyone and their momma on the Protech monitors (which the state pays $2.90 for each) and the "techanical revocations" that come from the use of the monitors. to me it's all a money game.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

It's time for the federal courts to butt the hell out of Texas' parole system.

8/12/2009 05:23:00 PM"

Yehaw, and all that garbage.. it is good to see that Texas has atleast ONE freak in the peanut gallery. Actually The Fed needs to come in and take control totally of the parole system AND the rule-making authority until the State can actually give people of all backgrounds equal rights, and stop affronting the rights promised them in the Constitution of the UNITED STATES.., That piece of paper trumps any that the ignorant inbreds in Austin can think up.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 08:49 AM putting everyone on monitors is a racket with the BPP more than likely profitting financially from this abuse.

When a person has served the time required and is paroled, that person should be allowed to begin a real life and not continue to be monitored every minute of his life. This is a racket!

The BPP should be eliminated completely, let people server their time, give back good time and earned work time and when that reaches time to be served, let them go home. Texas has a troubled and uncontrolled Judicial System, greed and self has overtaken the whole system. Time for this to stop!!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous- When a person is paroled they have not served their time. They have done half their sentence and then however many set off's the state of Texas could come up with and with the very long sentences Texas doles out, yes most people have done their time and then some. A paroled person is still in prison and parole is part of the imprisonment, but you can finally come home and have sex again.

JulietsMom said...

Follow the money trail. Condition X will result in Sex Offender Treatment. The "offender" once released on parole or probation is not allowed to choose his/her own licensed treatment provider. Sex offender treatment is typically provided by privately owned and operated counseling "groups" that offer other treatment programs such as cognitive education, anger management, battered intervention/prevention, substance abuse treatment, and other treatment as well. Once in sex offender treatment it is most likely the "therapist" will require the "offender" (not "patient") to take additional classes within the same counseling group. The costs for these classes can range from $15 to $45 per week per class plus the costs for the manuals which are produced by the treatment provider.

The "offender" is required to pay for the classes in addition to other fines and fees despite financial hardships. Failure to pay results in dismissal from the treatment which will result in revocation. State funding may be available, but many of the providers fail to inform the "offender" of this. An interesting note is that some providers rarely give receipts insisting that it is not necessary.

These treatment/counseling groups are quite secretive. Someone needs to find out who is profitting from such treatment groups as many of these groups are operating out of more than one county. Sex Offender Treatment is a booming and profittable business.