By contrast, here are the parole approval rates by offense type for FY 2010 from the parole board's annual report (pdf, p. 20):
- Violent Aggravated Non-Sexual: 26.22%
- Violent Aggravated Sexual: 39.82%
- Violent Non-Aggravated Non-Sexual: 22.61%
- Non-Aggravated Sexual: 28.40%
- Non-Violent: 33.89%
- Total: 31.01%
Without more detailed data it's impossible to say what's behind the numbers or whether the spike may continue. It'll take many more months of data before one could say if recent, higher parole rates, including for agg sex offenders, are an outlier or represent a bona fide trend. But it does seem as though overall parole rates are inching upward, including even for serious offenders with long prison terms. This is good short-term economic news for the agency and the state and likely will pose little overall safety risk. If it continues, lessened prison population pressure will make it much less difficult next year for the Legislature to consider closure of more older, high-cost units as a cost-saving measure.
RELATED: Since Grits mentioned above data on sex offenders deemed ready for parole, it's worth mentioning that the Houston Chronicle has a story ("Freed Texas sex offendes aren't really free," April 16) about the state's civil commitment program, which supervises sex offenders deemed unfit for unfettered release even though they've fully served their sentence. Civil commitment is an extra punishment attached after criminal sanctions end and some critics complain it amounts to double jeopardy. The Chronicle discussion arises in the wake of a recent escape by a high-risk sex offender from a halfway house run by the Geo Group, a private prison vendor. (Texas Prison Bidness notes that this was the 5th escape from that facility in 18 months.) Roughly 244 offenders are currently monitored in Texas' civil commitment program.