Saturday, October 04, 2014

Parole commissioner indictment points to swamped system

More detail has emerged regarding the indictment of parole commissioner Pamela Freeman reported by Grits yesterday. A story in the Houston Chronicle (Oct. 3) opened:
A state parole commissioner in Huntsville has been taken off the job after being indicted for tampering with an official document, accused of falsifying state records to incorrectly show that inmates refused to go to their parole interviews.

The alleged omission by Pamela D. Freeman may have adversely affected the annual parole process for five Texas inmates, prosecutors said Friday.

Freeman was tasked with interviewing inmates who were up for release and writing "parole memorandums" to help the board make a decision.

"We've only indicted her for one count, but there are five inmates that we know of," said Stephanie Stroud, First Assistant of the Walker County District Attorney's Office. "You can see how if a person writes, 'they refused to interview' that could negatively affect how the parole board votes."
Freeman denies the charges and has hired Houston attorney and former state senator Craig Washington to represent her. The Texas Tribune added this additional detail:
The case began last June when San Antonio lawyer Kevin Stouwie complained to state Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Inspector General Bruce Toney. ...

A copy of Stouwie's complaint, obtained by The Texas Tribune, stated that on April 30, at least five inmates on the Wynne Unit in Huntsville were called into an area to be interviewed by Freeman.

The inmates and other prison workers saw Freeman at the prison that day, but said she did not interview any of the five. The men's files included Freeman's remarks that they had refused to be interviewed by her. All five were denied parole.

Contacted late Friday, Stouwie said he found out about the incident from the inmates' attorneys and is considering representing them in a civil action against the parole board.

"It's not clear to me whether they are going to reconsider those cases," said Kevin Stouwie. "They may and if they do, that could have a bearing of what happens."
This investigation is not the first time attorneys have complained about Freeman's actions, according to Bill Habern, a lawyer in Huntsville who handles parole cases and who filed a grievance against her with the board a year ago.

"She's had a long and troubled history with lawyers who do parole work," he said. "Most board members I deal with, including those on the current board, seem to be sincere, dedicated people who try to do the right thing."

Freeman was charged with interviewing inmates who who had served at least 20 years of their sentences and had never been interviewed by a parole commissioner. She was one of two commissioners based in Huntsville and has been in that post since 2004.
The Trib linked to a copy of the indictment.

Board chair Rissie Owens said the episode is not indicative of her department overall - and what else could she say? - but the truth is even on the best of days parole commissioners and board members devote precious little time per decision anyway before making a judgment to grant or deny release. If Freeman committed this offense, it likely wasn't from malice toward the individuals but from prioritizing bureaucratic convenience over the men whose fates she was deciding. To me, the episode is as much evidence of a broken system as one person's individual failings. They can't handle the volume and when corners are cut it's a function of being too swamped to focus more than a few minutes on the details of any given case.

MORE FALLOUT: I'm just tracking rumors,  I haven't confirmed this. But after I'd first seen it mentioned by a Grits commenter, another source has declared that Romulo Chavez, a retired Houston police officer and the appointed Parole Board Member in the Huntsville Office, has tendered his resignation in lieu of being fired transferred out of the Huntsville office. The anonymous Grits commenter lamented that Chavez was "the one person who had the courage to try to hold Freemen accountable for her wrongful acts."

A post on the PrisonTalk message board confirmed that Chavez is gone, elaborating that "Fred Rangel, currently a Parole Commissioner in Angleton, will be filling in at the Huntsville Panel. Board Directives have been updated to reflect he will be voting in both Huntsville and Angleton for the time being. My guess is that he will be moved to Huntsville once the position is officially vacated...Rangel owns a home in the area and bought a second home in Angleton when he was hired for that office."

This is an incredibly fluid situation, made more tenuous because it's happening less than a month before a gubernatorial election. So who knows what politics-driven decisions made in crisis-control mode might end up driving what happens in the near term?

Beyond fallout in the next few weeks, one would expect, or certainly hope, that legislative oversight would commence this fall, before the session begins, to learn the backstory behind Freeman's alleged misconduct and Chavez's untimely ouster (his term didn't end until 2019). Sen. John Whtimire and Rep. Tan Parker, chairmen of the Senate Criminal Justice and House Corrections Committees, respectively, are the two men primarily responsible for making that happen. Once they get their committees involved - and Whitmire helped initiate the complaint, so one would think he's poised to strike while the iron's hot - who knows where this rabbit hole leads?

AND MORE (Oct. 5): Parole attorney Bill Habern sent me the following discussion of the issues surrounding Freeman, Chavez and Rissie Owens via email. It was too long to include in the comments so find his full commentary below the jump.

From long-time Texas parole attorney Bill Habern:

I had no clients who were to be interviewed by Ms. Freeman, so I cannot claim to have directly been involved in this indictment. However, I do have a pile of hearsay on the issues as Freeman and I go back for some period of past events. Hearsay is about all one can count on since everything involving the parole board in this state is "privileged information", something I also have some things to say about.

Ms. Freeman has a long past as a voting panel member who, in my opinion, displays prejudice, incompetence, and is consistently unprepared to participate in hearings (called parole interviews) at the time when a prospective parolee is being considered for release. However, this problem is but one of many that need addressed by the Texas Legislature regarding the long outdated, secretive, and at time unconstitutional actions of the Texas Parole Board.

When last David O'Neil (current Chairman of the Corrections Committee of the Tx Criminal Defense Lawyers Association) and I met with Sen. Whitmire, we discussed these issues, and he acknowledged there were issues we discussed that gave him concern. However, as he pointed out, there was not a single vote on his committee by any member of the Lege who was interested in taking up these issues. Now I personally like Whitmire, and he did show a reasonable degree of concern.  He just made clear he had no support within his committee to instigate any changes.

I have been appearing before the Texas Parole Board for approximately 40 years representing inmates seeking parole. I have published approximately 20 articles on the topic of our parole board, I have appeared for clients in a number of states outside of Texas before parole boards. I was chairman of the Tx Criminal Defense Lawyers Committee on Corrections for over 20 years, and have successfully sued the parole board in federal and state court at times over unconstitutional practices this agency has engaged in.

In my 40 years of dealing with Texas voting parole panel members I have never filed a grievance on a panel voter until approximately a year ago after I suffered yet another entanglement with Ms. Freeman. Before filing my grievance I sought through public media to discover if others had experienced the same type of disrespect, lack of preparedness, disinterest in hearing the evidence as I experienced from Ms. Freeman. I had many responses. My efforts were the result of prior encounters I have had with Freeman, but particularly one where she limited me (in a very complicated case) to a 15 minute phone presentation and would not even allow the mother of the client an opportunity to speak about a central topic of which the mother had professional knowledge. Many who contacted me were  other lawyers, and some from members of families who had attempted to deal with Ms. Freeman without counsel. Overall the lawyers were most supportive of what I was about to do, but they did not wish to put their names on any official grievance. They were fearful of retaliation.

Frankly, my response to that fear was, "Then why in hell did you go to law school?  I think lawyers have an obligation to expose wrongdoing in any state government office where wrongs are being done.".  In the end we had myself, three other lawyers, and, as I recall, 4 other families who did file official grievances. (There are specific rules the board has published for filing such grievances and some lawyers told me they were just going to call Ms. Owens. I explained that would get them no where.)

I was not too concerned that we were denied parole. I was, however, very concerned that we did not get to present the meaningful evidence on which a meaningful decision could have been based as most of our information was outside the record, but mostly fully verified had I been able to call it to the attention of the lead voter on the case.

Mr. Chavez was then a new board member assigned to the same office (Huntsville) as Mr. Freeman (a commissioner).  The grievances were apparently processed, and I later learned that it befell Chavez  (as the unit Board member) to sanction Ms. Freeman over the grievances. Because of the stupid secrecy policies the legislature continues to afford the board, the details of any sanction were never disclosed to me, however, I tried to discover what those sanctions were. I was told that information was privileged---even if I filed the grievance. I suggest anytime the legislature creates a state agency which is cloaked in secrecy, they have created and blessed that agency with the opportunity to bathe in deceit, unethical conduct, and, at times corruption. 

Recently I have been told  by a reliable source that Chavez was most serious in his sanctions arising from our grievances regarding Ms. Freeman. So severe was his action that she went and complained to Chairman Owens over her being sanctioned. I am told that later Chavez was called into Owens office where Owens expressed her disapproval of his actions in the Freeman matter. From that point forward I understand their relationship did not improve.

One must remember that my grievance was not the first issue Freeman appears to have had while with the Board. She started out in the Palestine office, but was moved to the Angleton office, and I am told it was because of interpersonal issues. While at Angleton she is reported to have had on going issues with other voting panel members. In a final issue, it is reported that Freeman and one of the best and most enlightened members ever to serve on the parole board, Linda Garcia (now an Asst. D.A. in Harris County), had a disagreement with Freeman. I understand when Garcia called Chairman Owens to complain, that very afternoon, Garcia got a phone call from the Governor's office and it was Garcia that was terminated. As a result we should not be surprised at what has happened to Chavez, who all reports indicate was developing into a first class member of the Board. Freeman was then moved to the Huntsville board where upon arrival she totally stopped affording inmate families or their lawyers face to face interviews. She would limit phone interviews to 15 minutes (a totally insufficient time to present a complicated case). While she would regularly allow a family member to listen to the presentation of the lawyer, she would not allow that family member to say anything. Such a practice was extremely disrespectful to the family, and a practice I never before encountered from any other voting member in my 40 years. It also spoke badly for the P.R. between the board and the public.

It is my personal opinion that those lawyers who deal with the board on a regular basis let the matter of Freeman go too long without objection. In the last year  while representing a young man from a very successful and respected East Texas family called me when they learned that Freeman was to be the lead voter on the son's case. They had her the previous year and she had been rude, and disrespectful to them. The family ask that I withdraw my request for an interview (hearing). They had experienced the abuses Freeman previously bestowed on them in a prior hearing by Freeman, and they had objected in writing to her prior disrespect.  In that prior presentation for parole Ms. Freeman would not even allow the mother of the offender the opportunity to speak.

Ms. Freeman had gotten to the point where she never granted a lawyer or family a face to face interview. While the law does not require the board to afford such interviews, it is a rather common practice in every office throughout the state except the Huntsville office after the arrival of Ms. Freeman.

In the course of my involvement over the Freeman grievance and resulting in my request from my client to withdraw my requested interview with Freeman this year, I received a letter from Chairman Owens directing me to address  such requests to Chavez who was in charge of overseeing the actions of other voting panel members in the Huntsville office. Looks like the authority she afforded him came with a chain around his neck so Owens could jerk it at her will.  I do not think, based on my experience in this matter, that one can separate the dismissal of Chavez and the indictment of Freeman.  Owens clearly appears to have acted to protect  Freeman in the past, and it is my opinion that seeking Chavez's resignation is just another form of her retaliation. Again, that is my opinion.

In closing I wish to make clear that overall I have a high opinion of the current voting panel members throughout Texas, except as for Freeman. I cannot imagine any other board member or commissioner trying to pull off what Freeman is alleged to have done in her indictment. On the other hand, if I had been asked which voting panel member would engage in such activity, Freeman would have been the first and only current voting board member I would have predicted. She leaves me with the belief that as a quasi-judicial administrative parole voter, she leaves fairness at home when she goes to the office.

Most board members and commissioners are fully aware of the emotional trauma that attaches to the offender and his/her family when going through a parole consideration. Once engaged in trying to speak for an inmate at a parole interview it can be an emotional and heart wrenching experience for anyone undertaking such an event. We are better off without having to face Ms. Freeman in such a situation.


Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

Exactly! In my opinion many of these voters have become jaded to the realism that they are not only making a decision that affects the offender but their entire support system (mothers, fathers, wives, husband's, children, friends, other family members)...rarely does their vote just effect one! From things I've hard from "the inside" she was tired of waiting on the inmates who were late to their appointments, taking no consideration to the fact they are unable to get to their destination if the CO's fail to roll the doors....which is a huge issue at this unit from visitations, to offenders trying to make it to their education classes and now apparently even when trying to get to their parole interview! Wake up State Leaders...your system is broken and needs evaluation and overhaul...justice in the parole process is lacking in more areas than just this!

Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

Gary Cohen said...

As one who has known Ms. Freeman since she started at the Board and as someone who regularly appears before the Board, the benefit of doubt you give her is unwarranted. Most of the voters are conscientious, hardworking folks who treat families with dignity and respect. This is not true of Pam Freeman. Her absence as a voter will not be missed by anyone.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So Gary, you don't agree that "if Freeman committed this offense, it likely wasn't from malice toward the individuals but from prioritizing bureaucratic convenience over the men whose fates she was deciding."

Do you think she had something specific against these individuals or just didn't care about them compared to her own convenience and timetable?

Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

I don't think Ms. Freeman had personal issues with these individuals and made these statements to be malicious to them specifically but that she believes she is superior to any offenders and offended they would keep her waiting. As a result, documenting they refused to interview when realistically any one who thought about it would have probably come to the conclusion that the inmates were unable to get to their meeting...after all its not like they have free run of the facilities and can move around at their leisure. The Huntsville Board in general has an attitude of superior intelligence against those who question their methods and find it more constructive of their time to re-judge offenders each review based on their crime than evaluating their current disposition and capability of reintegration. Rissie Owens herself has publicly stated "We are looking for the facts of the case and we have a parole file that includes the judgment, sentence, court documents, police reports, etc, etc. so, I don’t think there is anything in that attorney packet that is going to change the facts of the case that we already have in the parole file." Basically letting you know your input isn't needed and probably won't even be taken into consideration before making a decision!

Kevin Stouwie said...

The inmates didn't keep Ms. Freeman waiting. They were there waiting for her prior to the designated time. She saw them there and she simply walked past them on her way out the door.

Pamela Freeman had malice in her heart if she thought she had the right to lie about their willingness to meet with a voter, considering each man had already been incarcerated for over twenty years and had never been interviewed by a Board Member or Parole Commissioner. She promptly documented that the inmates had "refused" to be interviewed".

She knew that such a claim would permanently impair each person's ability to be paroled, and she just didn't give a damn. She was even challenged on her lie right from the get go, from multiple people, and rather than admit her lie, she dug in her heels and refused to give in. Then, she voted to deny parole. Pretty outrageous, but given what I've witnessed her do in the past, it's no surprise.

The fact that she wasn't fired on the spot as soon as her supervisor concluded that she had lied about the interviews, or in the 5 months afterwards, is simply baffling to me.

Gary summed it up well. The other voters are hardworking and they do the best they can. Ms. Freeman generally has no regard for other people, and that's probably why she believed what she was doing to these inmates was somehow ok.

Notwithstanding the events of April 30, the part that never made sense to me was why she was allowed to keep her job for so long despite all of her well documented shortcomings.

"Fighting for parole reform NOW"..
The documents in the Board's file, even if reviewed, and even assuming they are accurate, rarely yield all of the important and relevant details.

Gary Cohen said...

Ms. Freeman could never shed her correction officer mentality. She regarded all offenders with disdain and was openly hostile to families as well as attorneys. The concept that offenders can make positive changes in their lives and become better human beings was foreign to her. I have no problem with a cautious approach to release decisions but she was needlessly mean spirited and arrogant. Her concept of public service was the public being subservient to her.

Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

I agree 100%.....I was misadvised from inmate rumor that they were having issues getting the doors issue I hear is rather common there.

I am not surprised at all. My husband was supposed to get his 20 year interview in May of this year. On May 23rd I was advised through the parole status line he received another one year set off. I called the board immediately because under BPP-DIR 141.355 my husband was supposed to be interviewed...he had also been told by his IPO to expect it so when they voted prior to interviewing him we were blindsided. Every day I called I was told "the board was aware of my complaint and would get back to me." Ms. Freeman was the lead voter and supposed to complete the interview.

I contacted our parole attorney and the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to also raise awareness of my concern. After a week our parole attorney's assistant advised us per Ms. Freeman's assistant that my husband was just shy of 20 years and wasn't eligible. Our parole attorney was no assistance pursuing the complaint further even though I had a TDCJ time sheet in hand conflicting this and showing 20+ years served.

Two weeks after I initiated contact with the Senate Committee I received a call from them, not the board, advising me that when his time served was calculated they subtracted his time in county and only considered his prison time not his jail time. Why they didn't just look at the system generated time sheet like I was provided is still astonishing to me. This obviously wasn't the intent of BPP-DIR 141.355 and they quickly updated the language to "avoid internal confusion for processing" from what I was told.

Two weeks later Freeman showed up to interview him along with other offenders she was there to see. She refused to admit the error and made a point to let my husband know she was only there at the request of a state representative. The reality is should they have failed to interview him they would have been in blatant violation of that directive.

As a result they also granted a Special Review..something else that wouldn't have been granted unless there was a violation of a board rule.

We waited a month after the interview and if I call the Huntsville office, I'm told the board members opted to let their original vote stand; if I call another office I'm told it's under special review and they don't see a decision has been made yet. Per their online resource he's "currently in the review process". And we have never receive a formal notice regarding the decision on his Special Review.

It's very frustrating not really knowing because you can't get two matching answers...and knowing that his fate for this review period was pretty much sealed on May 23...even if they go through the motions to satisfy the directive, there is no way to ever know if they really have a second thought based on interview feedback or not.

My husband is a model inmate with no disciplinary issues in over a decade. A youthful offender who spent over half his life under TDCJ care. There is not a single staff member who doesn't speak well of my husband and he's got a deep support system, yet after 13 years of the parole process he's still waiting for his winning ticking and an opportunity to reintegrate and return to his family.

I have no idea if the issue we ran into with his vote was malicious or truly an oversight but I wouldn't put it past her based on how she carried herself at the PACT conference in 2013 and from other feedback I've read from other experiences people have had when dealing with her.

sunray's wench said...

The fact that a single individual's statement or comment on an inmates application for parole can have such far-reaching ramifications clearly shows how broken the parole system is in Texas.

Rissie Owen's comments that the BPP have the details of the inmate's crime and they base their decisions on the facts of the crime is absoloutely the wrong way to approach parole. It is not the BBP's job to apply further sanctions just because they don't like what the inmate was sentenced for and in some cases clearly feel the inmate should have received a longer sentence overall. They should be looking at the facts relating to the period of time the inmate has served - things the inmate has had some influence over like their own behaviour, and not something that is historic fact and the inmate can do nothing about.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

For Kevin, Gary, Habern, or for that matter Rissie or anybody else reading this with personal knowledge or insight: What do you think of Chavez's abrupt firing/resignation, and what do you think is the relationship between that and Freeman's indictment? What's the motivation for that tone-deaf move behind the scenes?

Kevin, I agree that she was allowed to keep her job for five months is baffling, particularly since John Whitmire was in the loop. His first move in a crisis is more often than not to call for firing everybody.

Also, Rissie Owens needs to give more of an explanation than the pablum statement they've put out so far. And the MSM need to get Chavez's side of the story about what's going on behind the scenes - it's clearly more than just the indictment of one bad apple if others are going down as fallout ... possibly including Rissie before we're through.

PAPA said...

Recall Rissie Owens stated to the news media that she does not believe in Parole about 4 or 5 years ago..recall this article...
PAPA wrote Gov Perry inquiring why she was re-appointed to this current term after she stated she did not believe in Parole,never received a response...Flo

Gary Cohen said...

Dear Grits:

Ms. Owens has a reputation as being a "strong willed" Chairperson. Over the years she has had Ms. Freeman's "back" regarding previous complaints and has been her protector.

When Mr. Chavez was appointed to the Board he was the titular head of the Huntsville Panel. I believe that he wanted to change the culture of that office to become more open and responsive to the public. In doing so, it is rumored that he reprimanded Ms. Freeman on more than one occasion and that she complained to Ms. Owens who then accused Mr. Chavez of "bullying". Ms. Freeman. Obviously Mr. Chavez and Ms. Owens didn't see eye to eye.

Ms. Owens, as Chair, has the power to assign panels, i.e., where voters work. She has used this power in the past as a punitive measure against other voters who have gotten cross wise with her.

There is no reason why she would have reassigned Mr. Chavez to the newly created Austin Panel. The Huntsville Panel is one of the busiest Board Offices in the state. With Ms. Freeman gone, why, other than pure political payback would she move Chavez to a less busy office, leaving Huntsville even more understaffed? I believe she knew he would react by resigning.

Ms. Owens has been one of the longest serving parole board chairs in memory. There is a lot that needs to be changed in this area of criminal justice in order to make the parole process fair, predictable and just. Change must start at the top.

Ed Cox said...

Having conducted a telephonic hearing with Chavez about two weeks ago, I think his departure from the Board is unfortunate. He was kind, professional, had reviewed and considered the materials submitted to him, and was receptive to discussing the unique issues of my client's case. That is what I encounter with the vast majority of the board members and commissioners.

George said...

It would be interesting to know type of crime that these inmates, who had served 20 years and were just now coming up for parole, were convicted of.

Were these murderers or sex offenders and could it be that Ms. Freeman was biased against these types of crimes? If so, what about the other parole commissioners and their attitudes towards specific crimes?

This could be the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as corruption taking place in the entire parole process. If it is true, and I haven't read the article that suggests such, that Rissie Owens does not believe in parole, well what the hell is she doing overseeing the department?

You damn right the system is busted and has been pretty much from it's inception. Too much bias, too many people involved in the process, too little credence given to the inmate's support system on the outside and good behavior/achievements while inside.

From the get go, anyone who is convicted of a crime and who is eligible to be paroled should have a definite release date, unless they screw up inside which could extend their release date. This would do away with a need for so many parole commissioners.

The idea that they only consider the facts of the case when the inmate comes "up" for parole is ridiculous, the facts of the case and the serious of the crime is there from day one and does not need to be reviewed and taken into consideration when the inmates' review date comes up.

IMO, there should be a tiered parole rating depending upon the nature and seriousness of the crime from the start and a definite release set from the moment the inmate sets foot within a prison or shortly after conviction. That way, the inmate or offender and his/her family knows what to expect as far as the amount of time he/she is to spend behind bars. If this doesn't make sense then please explain to me why it doesn't.

Why stay with an archaic system that relies on people such as Pamela Freeman to stake out a domain that they feel like they own and can do as they please?

Kevin Stouwie said...

I agree with Gary's assessment. Challenging Ms. Owens about anything almost always resulted in some type of punitive action. Others have learned that lesson the hard way.

The above fact, and the rumored ties between Owens and Freeman, were the main reasons I chose to bring the complaint to Senator Whitmire in the first place. However, I waited until the end of June to send the complaint, as I was trying to give the Board the benefit of the doubt and see if Ms. Owens was ever going to do something about it. She did nothing. However, her own Board Member in Huntsville, Mr. Chavez, quickly did a basic managerial inquiry and quickly determined to his satisfaction that the accusation about the falsification of the records by Freeman was almost certainly true. I'm sure he told Ms. Owens his opinion.

Mr. Chavez is an honest and honorable man. He is polite and respectful to others. He did not come into that position with an agenda. He tried to learn the job and clean up a dysfunctional board office. Incidentally, it's worth mentioning that Ms. Owens has her office in the same physical location as the Huntsville Board Office. The irony here is that Ms. Owens has accused Mr. Chavez of having a bullying approach to managing his office.

The simple truth is that Pamela Freeman was not going to let Mr. Chavez, or anyone else for that matter, tell her what to do or how to do it. Why would she, knowing Rissie Owens always had her back?

Chavez is a former Marine, with over 30 years experience as a police officer. He's also a former instructor at the police academy, and he willingly spent over two hours in his car every day commuting to and from Spring to Huntsville. He never complained to any outsiders about the struggles he was having in the Huntsville Board Office. Instead, he simply kept trying and he did not give up. Ms. Owens knew for certain that he would not move his family to Austin for a job that was, by definition, an appointment to serve only a few more years.

Ms. Owens lost a lot of credibility by always protecting Ms. Freeman at all costs. A number of attorneys began openly wondering what Freeman had on Ms. Owens that would make her cover for her to such an enormous extent. Freeman's record is filled with complaints, and when a couple of attorneys started asking for copies of Freeman's personnel file under valid open records requests, getting them to turn over the information was a nightmare. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

For the record, I never spoke with Mr. Chavez about any of the issues with Pamela Freeman until after Rissie Owens constructively discharged him the day before Ms. Freeman was indicted. Even then, he was not hostile or angry with anyone. He was hurt, and rightfully so.

Gary Cohen said...


After reviewing the indictment, I have a yet unasked question to pose to you and the MSM.

Ms. Freeman is charged with violating Penal Code Section 37.10Tampering with a Governmental Record. The body of the indictment alleges that she knowing made a false entry. However, the indictment also refers to a violation of subsection "a(4)" making it an offense to possess, sell or offer to sell a government record...

The Walker County DA office has publicly stated that while handing down only one indictment there are actually five complainants. So, the question becomes--What other information does the DA possess regarding Ms. Freeman selling confidential file materials to others--i.e. parole attorneys.

Parole files are not subject to open record act requests and even the offender's own lawyer does not have access to their clients files. Habern and I have been doing parole work longer than anyone else in the state and we have long argued--with no success-for access to our clients files. This is probably the single most important change that can be made to promote fairness in the parole process.

Since the passage of the Michael Morton Act, everything in the DA file is subject to disclosure to defense counsel. Why should it magically be shrouded in secrecy when it goes into a parole file?

If a parole attorney had a special relationship with Ms. Freeman and was able to buy access to confidential file information, we need to know about it.


Kevin Stouwie said...


My gut feeling is that Ms. Freeman was so filled with contempt towards attorneys that she would not do anything like sell them info. Also, an attorney who would do that would be at risk of losing their license. I took the DA's statements as simply meaning that they could still indict her for falsely claiming the other four people had refused to be interviewed, as there were 5 people who she was supposed to interview on April 30.

By the way, I could not agree with you and Mr. Habern more, it's completely absurd that the Board refuses to turn over the contents of the Board's file on an offender, to the offender or his attorney. I hate to think how many people have languished in prison unnecessarily for years and years because of mistakes in the Board's file.

Gary Cohen said...

Kevin--I understand, but how do you reconcile the specific reference to subsection a(4) in the indictment?

Kevin Stouwie said...

I do not know. However, perhaps the Board's interview form used by the interviewer is what they are referencing per the statute. She may have turned it in with her signature after the interviews were supposed to have occurred. I do know that Mr. Chavez was the lead voter on at least one of the 5, and if she intended for Mr. Chavez to rely upon that form, maybe that's what they mean...

"possesses, sells, or offers to sell a governmental record or a blank governmental record form with intent that it be used unlawfully."

Gary Cohen said...

Still think its a good question to explore. Keep it in mind as you go forward with your lawsuit. Good work on bring this matter to the fore front.

X said...

In my single face-to-face hearing with Ms. Freeman, she made a display to my client of her disdain for my presence as the attorney in the room.

While we were able to obtain a favorable vote in that case, I never received another favorable vote from her or face-to-face interview after that.

I will echo the other comments: everybody else I have dealt with on the Board seems to want to go about the business of considering cases without hostility.

In my view, Ms. Freeman was unique in her need to express it.

Michael W. Jewell, President, Texas CURE said...

Abuses like those perpetrated by Pamela Freeman would, in large part, be prevented if the BPP honored the Individual Treatment Program (ITP). The ITP was legislated into law in 2001 under the Texas Government Code Sect. 508.152, styled, Proposed Program of Institutional Progress. This law requires prison officials to interview and investigate the history of inmates entering TDCJ no later than 120 days after their arrival. A special panel of professionals are to determine the rehabilitative programs that would make individuals better suited to successfully reenter society and not recidivate. e.g., if an inmate has little edcation, no work history, and a problem with drugs or alcohol, s/he would be REQUIRED to obtain a GED diploma, learn a vocation, and successfully complete the Substance Abuse Program. It is state law that an inmate cannot make parole until s/he meets the ITP requirements. Now, the catch is, even when inmates do meet their ITP requirements, the BPP does not have to grant them parole. The Board can continue to set them off for years, even decades for immutable reasons such as "nature of the offense" "past criminal history" "use of a weapon." Taxpayers shell out millions of dollars annually to maintain the ITP program, when, as presently practiced, it is as useless as tits on a boar hog. Sect. 508.152 should be amended to make parole mandatory for parole eligible inmates who have successfully completed their ITP requirements. I served 40 years on a life sentence from 1970-2010. I was denied parole numerous times, one 3 year setoff after another even though I had successfully met the 3 requirements listed above. If prisoners were rewarded with parole after completing their ITP requirements, the state would soon be saving millions of dollars each year, and the problems associated with overcrowding would end.

Michael W. Jewell
President, Texas CURE

Anonymous said...

There is no individual treatment plan, I remember when the Gatesville Parole Board sent that letter to my love one when they were denied parole. The first thing out of mouth was WHAT TREATMENT PLAN? HO SQUAD! The Gatesville Board needs to be investigated. Especially their relationship with Gateway! some of the members have some serious race issues. This also tells me a parole lawyer is a big scam too.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to look at their relationships with those rotten to the core half way houses and that so called after care treatment that is one big fraud against the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

She graduated from Paul Quinn University, Dallas, Texas, and the University of Phoenix. SAY WHAT!!! This tells me anyone low life can be a parole member!

Will Yablome said...

Anyone who has worked for a governmental agency in the last 20 years understands the dynamics in play here. Can you say "racial animus" I knew you could.

Mary Jane Sauseda said...

My husband was up for parole last year in May & got not 1 but a 2 yr set off. Freeman was one of the voter. My husband had no disciplinaries & took every class & college course he could do & still got denied. Freeman has messed with the lives of all affected with these bogus setoffs. It devastates not only the inmates but the families bc of her abusing authority & power. We cant get our time back with our loved ones whether it be a yr, 2 or 3! My atty & I felt confident that my husband would see parole after 4yrs then to be devastated with a 2yr setoff. What about US!!! Affected by all this. Freeman is an Evil woman & may God deal with her very soul & May she end up on the other side & feel what its like, to what i feel has Screwed all out of a chance for freedom. & if found guilty.... How can they make it right for every1 affected by her actions??

Anonymous said...

I feel Ms. Freeman has done this with malice, as she has not made it secret to the inmates how she feels, she portrays as she doesn't give a damn and doesn't care what she does. My brother is one of the Five inmates in this case but has been scared to do anything about it because the parole board has his whole life in there hand. I have attend the PACT meetings and Ms. Freeman has always "pretend" to be busy and not talk to families of inmates. Leper, Garcia and Chavez would talk to you and treat you with respect and try to give helpful information. Yes these inmates have committed a crime but prison is suppose to be rehabilitation not roulette. Ms. Freeman plays with these inmates emotional state and our family has been dealing with her for 12 years. I think there will be more counts of this coming soon!

Jeni Lyon said...

Ms. Freeman called me on 12/28/2012 because I had requested an interview, according to my rights as the daughter of both the deceased victim AND the prisoner convicted of my mother's murder.

Ms. Freeman's first question to me was "who are you?" I immediately felt completely dejected & dismayed because I knew she had not even bothered to flip through my father's parole file, which was THICK with my letters begging the board for mercy that I'd sent over the course of his 18 years of incarceration.

In our 5 minute perfunctory "interview," I could not recover from my shock at her utter disregard for the magnitude of that parole decision on MY life. She was rude, dismissive, and had very poor grammar and communication skills.

Adding insult to injury, she dismissed me as a sincerely impacted victim in the case because I was speaking in support of the offender. She discounted my sense of loss as though my words meant less than half as much to her since I was the offender's daughter. However, I sincerely believe my perspective should weigh twice as much since I have essentially lost both of my parents to this ongoing tragedy.

I have now had 9 interviews with voting members of the board and I have never been treated with such contempt and disrespect as Ms. Freeman showed me, 3 days after Christmas.

If I had known there was a way to lodge a formal complaint against Ms. Freeman, I would have done so.

I am not surprised she has been indicted for such egregious wrongdoing. I hope she is brought to justice and all 5 offenders harmed will be given parole interviews and be immediately reconsidered for parole regardless of their set off dates.

I agree with the other Grits readers that the parole system in Texas needs an overhaul. It is not currently serving victims, offenders, taxpayers, or communities very well at all.

sunray's wench said...

George ~ nice to see at least one other person agreeing with my long-held views about the parole system in Texas :)

There is a common belief that no inmate with a 3G offence will get parole at the first time of asking. Can anyone shed any light on why that might be the practice of the BPP, and what purpose it could possibly serve?

As for Sen. Whitmire being understanding but unable to act because there would be no support from his committee, if he thinks it would be a good policy to bring into law surely he should be working to encourage his fellow committee members to rethink their stance - with fiscal evidence to back it up? He should start with legislation to remove the secrecy in the BPP. Inmates and their lawyers should have access to the files of the inmate. The only reason to suppress this information is a fear by the authority that incorrect information is held within.

Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

If Ms. Freeman wasn't "pretending to be busy" she made it every bit evident by her disposition that she had no interest in talking to you. I spoke with Rangel, Garcia, and a very nice lady from the Palestine office but never attempted to even approach miss Freeman as she made it very clear just by her body language she was unapproachable.

Fighting for parole reform NOW said...

I absolutely understand your concerns and to believe that the state of Texas should make right for all the offenders who's files she has had her hands on. my husband has had no disciplinary actions in over 10 years he is a model inmate nd used regularly to provide praise and worship music at different events held at the facilities chapel including their regular services 4 times every Sunday. he often has offenders and sometimes even staff members that come to him for prayer and spiritual guidance. he has been parole eligible since 2001, he has received one set off because of his disciplinary status at the time of review, and 7 set off's initiated by the Board. last year miss Freeman was actually his only positive vote...but even with her voting in favor of my husband she recommended fi5 requiring that he go to rehabilitation prior to being released and then an aftercare husband has never been an addict, but was a 17 year old boy who binge drink and resulted in the offense he was arrested for because he was exceedingly intoxicated that one was not a pattern of behavior for him and since he has been incarcerated for 21 years he hasn't experimented with drugs and alcohol since-and despite what TDCJ wants you to believe it's not because he doesn't have access, he has no desire to use those items because one of the few times he did resulted in him giving up over after this life to TDCJ.

I don't know Chavez personally and have never spoken with him....but I can't help it be concerned because of the internal conflict he and Ms Freeman apparently had been having; he might have gone against anything she recommended as a result of their personal conflict, whether that was subconscious or not.

I also don't know when they put it on my husband's file initially if they were aware of the actual time served, since there seem to be so much confusion on whether or not he had exceeded 20 years or not....something easily verifiable by reviewing his time sheet on file with TDCJ.

when this frame and opened up the interview with my husband she made it very clear he had not received 20 years towards his sentencing yet which is why he was not initially interviewed by her....humorously, after her blanket intro and explanation as to why she failed to interview him prior to voting....she opened up his file and said "looks like you got 20 on a 30." a statement that was completely contradictory to her blanket explanation regarding his interview.

this set off cycle just plays emotional games with the offender and their family members, the board should have to provide a specific and a valid explanation for making an offender complete multiple set offs for the same period of time. the left 3 review. We have had 3-1 year set off's with no disciplinary issues in between.

Anonymous said...

She has poor grammar and communication skills because she was plucked out of the ghetto and hired for PC reasons. Those colleges she graduated from, come on! The University of Phoenix is about to be put off limits because of the millions of dollars it has taken from just veterans and produced no employment. Who in their right mind would put someone like this on a Parole Board to begin with? As far as the Gatesville, Parole Board goes, where there is smoke there is fire and that board is as corrupted as they come! I looked at the parole board members and some of those colleges they attended are really interested to see. I feel this is why you get the two liners written responses from them. They are too ignorant to write and communicate. It would not come as any doubt that these board members are being paid by the Gateway program that the Gatesville parole send everyone through, the rotten half-way houses that TDCJ refuses to go and investigate, and those big time fraud after care contract providers. I bet they are being bribed to keep these failed programs full. The Gateway program half-way house in Dallas took 20% of a parolee’s pay check and the ruse was it went to her parole fees. When she got to San Antonio, he parole officer said they did not know what she was talking about and could she proved she gave the half-way house that money. They pulled that same stuff for many a years a that half-way house in Fort Worth run by Volunteers of America, another criminal organization defrauding the state tax-payers. I wonder whose pockets all of that money went into. TDCJ refused to find out. Must went into those investigators pockets. Parole is criminal and those people who are held in such high esteem are fooling no one. They are little people with complexes out to destroy other people’s lives so it resembles their miserable lives.

Leah Miller said...

As a family member who was interviewed by this cold hearted witch, she cannot be gone fast enough. She did not ask questions, she did not respond to statements I made. COMPLETE silence during the entire phone call. And I can produce the phone recording to confirm this. I agree with Gary Cohen, she will NOT be missed.

As for Chavez, good riddance to him as well. When I approached Freeman at the family PACT conference last October where families have access to officials from across the CJ system, she was courties, until I began my questions. She ran to hide behind Chavez (who was brand new). Chavez attacked me like a pit bull, defending her "honor" and "service" to the incarcerated of TDCJ. She had their best interests at heart. Bull cookies! Oh, and I can produce auditory recordings of that conversation as well.

When it took her a month to make a decision on my husbands case (non-violent, first time offender, 3yr sentence), she cited more bullshit reasons to deny his release that clearly indicated she had literally not read his file. When I called to discuss the decision with her, I was greeted with Chavez again running interference and defending Freeman. He was dismissive, cruel, and suggested that my husband would suffer consequences in the next decision if I didnt drop my inquiry. Too bad for them my husband was scheduled to fulfill the entire sentence within a year and would not be considered again. If not, I would be fearful of speaking out. Now? Uh NO.

Attention General Public!!
TDCJ and the Parole Board do NOT, and WILL not change any of this until you take notice and demand change!

Michael W. Jewell, President, Texas CURE said...

Grits, for two days I've tried to post an ad on this blog. It's the most confusing process I've ever dealt with, or am I just a dumbass? This is the ad:

The TX prison system is broken. So is the Criminal Justice system. The TX Families for Justice Rally will focus widespread attention on key issues. Come stand with us on the Capitol Steps in Austin 11-7-14 noon till 3:00 p.m. Sponsored by TAKE A STAND, BE THERE!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Michael Jewell, shoot me an email at and tell me where you're getting stuck on the ad process. I don't get a lot of advertising but haven't heard of anybody else having problems with the Blogads system.

Anonymous said...

I agree my dad has served over 85% of his sentencing which is 15 years out of 18 just went for parole hearing and was denied with no logical reasoning beside the nature of the. Offense which is not a good excuse for everytime he is denied. He has great behavior several certificates accomplished and etc... How do we go abt his appeal? Not to mention that chavez, tamela freeman, and garcia was the lead voters for my fathers parole hearing!!

Seaamy said...

“Nature of The Offense” is the one that static factor that will NEVER change!! To “re-judge” them on something that they have already been charged, tried and convicted on should be double jeopardy! What is they point of them working towards rehabilitation, furthering their education and participating in other programs if NONE of that seems to matter when it comes to making parole?

Leah Miller said...

Here, Here! Thank you Michael Jewell for mentioning the rally that TIFA has organized. ANYONE who has an interest in criminal justice reform and ensuring that state leaders see our numbers should be there. You do NOT have to have an incarcerated family member to attend.

Please show your support and attend our rally. to register

The rally is sponsored by:

Texas Inmate Families Assn

Texas Voices For Reason & Justice

Texas Cure

Friday, November 7th
South capitol steps
Noon - 3pm
wear turquoise or donate $20 on the TIFA or Voices website for a tshirt showing your support for those who have lost their power to do so.

Anonymous said...


Skifool said...

Thanks for all the coverage, Grits.

Anonymous said...

Folks I think it's apparent that Chavez was fired for being a 'whistle blower' wich again....shows just how unjust our parole system is!!! Hello??? Are we as a state listening YET???

Anonymous said...

Let's discuss the financial impact on our STATE for housing inmates that could very well be out in the free world working as tax paying productive folks, rather than sitting ideally in TDCJ expending our PRESCIUOS rescourses! We need to go back to the rock and chisel and reinvent the wheel in this state.

Seaamy said...

Posted on Prison Talk last night:

The updated Directive on Parole Panels reflects that Elvis Hightower and Troy Fox will also both be voting cases in the HV office. They both are in Austin and were previously in Gatesville before the budget approval for two new Commissioners. This actually is favorable for those who have LO's in the Huntsville area. All four Commissioners who may be voting in Huntsville have good reputations for paying attention to materials offered for consideration.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath with those two Gatesville cronnies!

Seaamy said...

Update posted via PrisonTalk last night: As a brief update, even though only a tangential offshoot...Freeman's warrant was executed yesterday by arrest and she was processed through the Walker County Jail.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that Rissie Owens protected Freeman because they're sorority sisters and that's how she got the job. Can anyone confirm this relationship? With proof?

Seaamy said...

I spoke to my LO last night and he informed me that Garcia made a trip to Wynne and interviewed the 5 inmates that Freeman walked out on. He occupies a cell right next to one of the five and spoke to him in depth about his interview. He said that Garcia was more focused on what he had done since being in prison and paid little focus on his crime. That is the way it should be!! I was pleased when he told me this. After 20 plus the crime that got them there should not hold as much weight as what they have done to change and better themselves since.

Kevin Stouwie said...

Grits, here is my detailed take on the whole crazy Freeman affair...

Anonymous said...

Something is going on with Parole and that First Step Counseling in Addison, Texas. They make the parolees drive over two and three counties to go there. I wonder who is being paid kickbacks to those Parole people in Austin and those Parole Officers iat the county levels.

Anonymous said...

the five men were interview but no one is mentioning the man that was interviewed by freeman and released but I think his race would have been a factor or that freeman personally knew him.

Anonymous said...

What unit was the man that you say was released by Freeman from?

Anonymous said...

wynne unit, he was interviewed the day the others were suppose to be.

Anonymous said...

Disgusted with the proscess!!
Bottom line it is not possible for 14 individuals to adequately review the magnitude of case files they have before them. Secondly they should be reviewing these files based on new information such as length of time served, discipline, completion of required course etc. They should'nt be resentencing these offenders each parole review and that is what is taking place. The case files should not be closed they should be open to the offenders and their attorneys. The offenders should have the right to review what they are being judged by. What has happened with Freeman is the tip of the iceburg God only knows what has been hidden and covered up over the years. On top of that to allow Rissie Owens to remain in her position after stating she doesnt believe in parole is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!! The parole board needs to have more accountability someone needs to monitor there actions closer. They definitely have the GOD syndrome everything is at their discretion and it should'nt be. There is no reason why a cutt & dry parole/release process can't be developed and implemented. Surely in this day and time a better system can be developed.

Anonymous said...

Hi my husband is in the goree unit as a trustee and he has a 5 year sentence and has been denied parole 2 now were at hi is projected release date and the 1st parole i had a 15 sec interview with one of them and they were rude and disrespectful and very unkind now I'm worried that he won't get out on his prd he has never been in trouble while being in and has done a bunch of classes and works in there and still nothing I hope we at least can get someone in there to do there job

Anonymous said...

So what happens now? Does every inmate who is eligible for parole recieve reconsideration if they were subject to review by Ms. Freeman?

Fortunately, for the five men at Wynne, someone was paying attention and caught the impropriety. But what about all the other men, possibly over several years who relied on Ms. Freeman's fairness and objectivity to review their files, provide them an interview and then make her decision based on that man's efforts while in prison. How can those men and their families trust that Ms. Freeman gave them a fair shake.

Whose going to revisit the Huntsville inmate files, for example to determine if Ms. Freeman properly took all things into consideration or did she just summarily deny parole to hundreds or thousands of men because she didnt feel like seeing them or reading their files? How can we know for sure?

Ironically, it is my understanding that the inmates actually preferred and trusted Ms. Freeman and were collectively pleased that she was made a commissioner. The inmates appreciated that she is a woman of color; that her life experiences and professional experiences possibly helped her understand some of the inmates' challenges in life. That maybe she knew someone just like them or as a former TDC officer saw the efforts that inmates make to achieve parole while in prison.

She let alot of people down. Especially those that were counting on her to be fair and objective and responsible and professional. Inmates that were subject to her vote need reconsideration of their file. Those inmates are entitled to know that she voted to deny them parole for a legitimate articulated reason; need to know she didnt rubber stamp a parole denial and throw the file onto the heap for (non)reconcideration next year.

At some time, all these men accept their fate, they do their time, they complete education programs, vocational programs, follow the legislature and wait their turn to be considered at parole. The least the board can do is ACTUALLY consider these men for parole. If they don't make it, they know what they have to do... wait for their next set off. But if they make it, let em go home. Don't say they didn't show for their interview.

I think its fair to assume that ANY man in a Texas prison who has an appointment to discuss even the possiblity of getting out of prison is going to make that appointment.

Seaamy said...

Update for anyone that is curious as to what the outcome was......All 5 of the Wynne inmates were notified the other day that they received setoffs. Sadly.. I am not surprised.

Rick said...

Gary Cohen, I totally agree with your comment here: "She regarded all offenders with disdain and was openly hostile to families as well as attorneys. The concept that offenders can make positive changes in their lives and become better human beings was foreign to her. I have no problem with a cautious approach to release decisions but she was needlessly mean spirited and arrogant. Her concept of public service was the public being subservient to her."
My brother is currently an inmate. I appeared before Pamela Freeman with my mother several years ago and I found her to be EXACTLY as you have described here. Quite frankly it was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Rosemary Fain said...

Thank God I had no dealings with her. I prepared my sons parole packet and kept on top of the process with some very good advise from Texas Inmates Families Assn. I did speak with Mr. Chavez as lead voter on my sons parole and he was most gracious. Sorry to see him go. And son is coming home. Granted Parole 1st time up...against a lot of odds. Gods work there. This ride is almost over.

Anonymous said...

I think this Pamela Freeman's actions are absurd. My husband was granted parole and taken all the way to Huntsville and the same day was turned around to be put back in a unit and one of the board members happened to be Pam Freeman. These people do not realize some of these men have taken all classes available to them, have done their best to keep away from trouble and have families that struggle and pray every day for their homecoming. It takes a toll on everyone for these negative actions.

Anonymous said...

I just found out this whole ordeal with Mrs.Freeman and my husband is at the holiday unit and I will be in contact with his parole Lawyer this is horrible I tried contacting her and she don't wanna here nothing u say..very rude and I hope she is sent to prison

Mary Jane Sauseda said...

Your absolutely right. These vague general reasons for denial is BS. It needs to be clear & detailed. Especially when my husband was a model inmate doing everything he could to improve his life while in there. Just sickening.

Teresa said...

I'm at a lost over all what Ms. Freeman has done. Ms. Freeman was the lead voter for my fiancé's parole review this year. Since 1996 he's had a code of "2D". Well this year a code of "1D" was added to his record. My fiancé told me that he wouldn't have the job he has now if the "1D" code applied to him. These codes are on the inmates denial letters. I wrote a letter to the Parole Board to find out why was this applied to him after so many years. I got their generic generated reply letter of receiving my letter. You can't talk to anyone about it cause they all have attitudes, like we're bothering them with our questions. Anyway, he'll have 4 more years to go after April 2015. They can't keep him there forever...right? He's gonna get out one day.

Parole Board gives false hope by setting them off for another year. My man is not the same person as he went in, after 25 years, c'mon! Even the bosses at the unit says he's not the same person. They've known him longer than I have.

But one thing for sure Ms. Freeman won't cause anymore problems for families. That's a victory in itself.

Anonymous said...

Yea she denied my husband last year.. talking about every time he comes up for parole she is going to make sure he doesn't get released... In her very own words... And I told her GOD is going to take care of everybody... And may she have a blessed day... Then I prayed about her ... And guess what GOD did.... He took care of her... Tissue Owens is next I know a lot about a lot... Mouthed sealed... #OnlyTimeWillTell just a matter of time and everybody is goinz down #MouthedSealed JUSTICE IS AROUND THE CORNER.... #MyGodIzGood

Dred Scott said...

I can't wait until we have "Bastille Day" in Texas. All these LEO people are turning into scum just like the Kaufman guy. Above the law, until you radicalized 20% of population by treating us like Jesus. WE WILL WIN. You are creating an ISIS.

Anonymous said...

Why is no one following the status of her case. I can not find any updates/articles written about what is currently happening. I see in the Odyssey system that she had a trial scheduled in May and now for June 8th. Did they not go to trial the original date? Are they having a new trial? Does anyone know what the current status is and why no media is following the status of her trial.