Regular readers are aware the parole board makes decisions regarding only a fraction of the 70,000+ releases from TDCJ each year. Prisonsers in state jails and SAFP serve their sentences (generally less than two years) day for day. And offenders with longer sentences sometimes age out, serving their full sentences day for day and leaving prison even if the parole board never grants early release. The Texas parole board considered 97,513 offenders for release in FY 2010, according to the agency's self-evaluation report, approving more than 33,000 of them:
So parole approval rates have been slightly rising; if they continue to increase at roughly the same pace over the next five years it would eliminate all pressure for new prison construction or leasing additional beds.
The parole board not only affects the prison population based on who it lets go but also based on how many people under its supervision go back to prison each year. Of offenders sent back to prison after their parole was revoked (28,969 people in fy 2010), says the self-evaluation, 12,573 or 43% of those revoked were for technical violations only. Another 4,230 had their parole revoked because of a "law violation, no new conviction," while 12,122 (42%) were sent back because of a new conviction.
The parole board recommended clemency, mostly full pardons, in 41 of the 237 non-capital cases it considered in FY 2010. They could have added that Perry granted only 9 of those 41. The budget for the entire clemency division, with a staff of seven, was $308,476 in FY 2010.
Blame the underlings
There was a remarkable veiled reference to the controversy surrounding the board's application of "Condition X" (sex-offender conditions) without due process to parolees who were never convicted of a sex crime, in which the self-evaluation seemed to blame staff and exonerate the board for its contretemps with the judges::
In 2009, the Legislature transferred the institutional parole operations from the TDCJ to the board primarily because the majority of the institutional parole officer’s duties and responsibilities supported the board’s statutory authority to release an offender on parole or mandatory supervision and constitutional authority to make clemency recommendations to the Governor for capital cases. Since the transfer, the quality of the case summaries has dramatically improved as has the work performance of the staff and overall efficiency of the operations. This transfer removed one obstacle that hindered the effectiveness and efficiency of the parole review process.The parole board is claiming their problems with federal judges occurred "because supervising staff misinterprets the board’s intent or incorrectly applies conditions of release the board imposes." Really?! The staff misinterpreted your intent or somehow incorrectly applied it? Hogwash! And they'd have us believe that the "obstacle" to fixing this problem is that the board should have more control over TDCJ parole officers? That's pretty blatantly using the Condition X controversy as an opportunity for an unwarranted power grab. The real problem is the board's overt defiance of numerous state and federal court decisions, not that staff or anybody else misinterpreted what they said or meant.
The parole officers authorized to supervise offenders released by the board were not transferred and continue to work for TDCJ. This obstacle, most recently noted by a federal judge, has resulted in continuing liability and litigation defense expenditures because supervising staff misinterprets the board’s intent or incorrectly applies conditions of release the board imposes. The board and TDCJ have appeared jointly as defendants in state and federal courts and in some cases, monetary damages and attorney fees were awarded to the Plaintiff and their attorneys.
Don't be late
Wanna communicate with the parole board but the chair won't place your issue on the agenda? You get your chance just once per year: "Once a year at a regularly called board meeting, the board will afford the public an opportunity to present comments that are not on the posted agenda. BPP-POL.141.202 outlines the procedures to follow for persons not employed by or under contract with the board who wish to have items placed on the board’s posted agenda." Be there or be square.
How it works
On p. 33 of the pdf is a chart with a good summary of the parole process for the layman.