Monday, February 12, 2007

Questioning Rissie Owens: What do you want to know from Texas Board of Pardons and Parole Chair?

I mentioned last week that Parole Board Chairwoman Rissie Owens, whose husband Ed is the number two man at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, had refused an on-camera interview with reporters at KHOU TV out of Houston, but said she would agree to answer written questions.

A couple of clever Grits commenters suggested some good ones, so I thought I'd make them their own post andwe'd start from there. I'd ask you, Grits readers, to add to this list of questions that should be asked in writing of the Board of Pardons and Parole Chair Rissie Owens:
1) How many parole applicants have you actually met?

2) How long do you spend on each parole application?

3) how many parole applicants are denied, even when they have satisfied conditions set at previous parole hearings?

4) What makes you think that an inmate coming up for parole after 20 years in prison is the same risk level as when they committed to original crime? Are you the same person you were 20 years ago?

5) Do 'parole packets' submitted by inmate's families and supporters have any effect on the Board's decision?

6) Why do you do your particular job? What do you think qualifies you to do it?

7) How many paroles are granted to inmates with lawyers compared to inmates without laawyers, detailed by risk level and offense severity?
Those are pretty good ones! I would add these, offhand:
8) Given Texas recent history of many convicted innocent people having been exonerated, should assertions of innocence be held against parole applicants, and if so why?

9) Are you aware when you make parole decisions whether an applicant is a trustee, and does that favor the applicant or make it more likely that they won't be released, particularly if they have a special skill?

10) Besides DWI offenders, who you've said you think need to be reclassified, are there any other specific reasons the parole board is not meeting its minimum release guidelines for releasing Level 6 and 7 offenders?
So tell me gentle readers: What other questions have you got? Let me know what else you'd like to know from Ms. Owens, and perhaps we'll submit the questions in writing and see what happens? To give you a little more background to formulate your questions, see these prior Grits posts:


Tracey Hayes said...

Parole 101

What is the role of parole in the criminal justice system? Why is it important?

Anonymous said...

1. Why doesn't the BPP provide individualized, meaningful reasons for denial of parole?
2. Individual's have access to their credit records so they can check the accuracy and challenge errors. Why don't inmates have access to the contents of their parole packets for the same purpose?

Anonymous said...

If an inmate of a non-Christian faith refuses to participate in faith-based courses while incarcerated, does this have any bearing on the BPP's decision when the inmates comes up for parole? What is the percentage of non-Christian inmates who are refused parole at the first application, with otherwise clear disciplinary records?

What is the number of inmates who are indigent directly before parole that have their applications refused?

{thanks for doing this Grits!}

Anonymous said...

1. Why is it that BPP is the only government agency that is wrapped up in a shroud of secrecy?

2. Why are there such radical disparities in approval ratings by regional offices and individual commissioners and members?

Anonymous said...

How is that offenders in the geriatric Estelle Unit were personally interviewed by you and they all received two or three year set offs? Do you take into consideration their rapidly deteriorating health, the cost to taxpayers, and the fact that they are too ill to do another crime or do you just rubber stamp a set off to avoid actually giving them a meaningful review?

Do you personally go to the other voting board offices and look at the quality of reviews they are giving offenders?

When answering the question about the large swing from one board office to another, do you personally think you might want to get everyone working on one track?
Basically, one can plan on a NO from the Amarillo board while getting a YES from the San Antonio board.

How often do you require all voting members to have a meeting (together) so that issues such as learning the board rules could be discussed and clarified?

Finally, is there any one person on the Board of Pardons and Paroles who does fully comprehend the rules as they are written?

Anonymous said...

Many states have a work-release phase between physical detention and paper supervision by Parole or community officer, whereby the offenders are employed in the public community during the day-time and return to state housing for programming and bed-checks in the night-time. Why not try this concept in Houston and the DFW area?

Anonymous said...

The parole offices need to be open 24/7 for contact. Parolees lives do not operate on an 8/5 day. The day time requirement for parolees to take off from work to report in creates a problem for the employer which cost the employer down time and the reason many employers do not hire parolees. Why can't the parole office be open on weekends, have a crisis line when the office is closed, have someone on duty during the holidays. Many parolees attempt to make contact in an emergency situation (ex: death,ER,etc) but can not contact anyone to inform what is going on which developes into a violaton.The PPB need to operate in harmony with peoples' lives.They certainly are making enough money for the PPB they can hire more people. Parole should not be a profit organization for the State of Texas.

Anonymous said...

Many inmates have detainers from other states, why not release these people making them the other state's responsibility?

Anonymous said...

Exactly what does your job descriptin consist of? I don't think it is making decisions as to who gets paroled and who does not. If I have read it correctly, your job is to be sure all positions are filled and the rules set forth by the Legislature are followed and you are not entitled to make decisions about someone's life as you do not know them or anything about that person.

Maybe you should resign and get yourself on the BPP and do the actual job yourself, then you would have an excuse for the cruel mean things that happen to people who don't belong in prison and deserve to come home to try to start a life that was taken away from them.

Anonymous said...

What input does the victim/family of the victim have in the parole process. Is their view important or is MONEY the big issue?

Anonymous said...

and following on from the above question,

IF the crime was a family one, do you still listen to the remaining family members if they WANT the inmate to be paroled, or do you just look at the crime itself?

Anonymous said...

Rissie Owens, Please answer why no one seems to follow the rules of the BPP? My husband comes up for parole in less than 3 months and "No One" has contacted him. Your website says he'd be contacted about 4 months before he comes up for possible parole. Has a decision already, automatically been made to give him a set off, because it's his first time up? Has his 20 years as a model inmate, respected by many, not made a difference to the BPP? Well, then again, you would not know about his life in a correctional facility these past 20 years, because rather than have counselors for the individuals and know their progress, or pros/cons in a penal institution, ya'll continue to harp on the nature of one's crime. What one did or didn't do cannot be changed, their sentence has already been given by a judge/jury! By now, surely you know that those who reach within, to their Higher Power, be it God or someone else, do change. There are no rehabilitation measures taken behind the brick and steel. The mandatory programs are backed up for years, and most officers go out of their way to de-humanize our loved ones. God Bless each and every one of you. From an inmate's wife, who has been inside, and seen what goes on.

Anonymous said...

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?

Have you never been mellow?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Who let the dogs out?

Why don't you do a better job?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

A prison guard emails this question, "ask her why that all our low level offender trusties are kept in for 4 1/2 years on a non- agg 5 yr sentence just to do the work of staff members. Shouldnt we be opening those beds up for REAL offenders?"

Anonymous said...

Grits, are you going to put these questions directly to Rissie, or are you going to go through a news agency for even more exposure?

Anonymous said...

OLDER THAN DIRT says: Who the hell is Rissie Owens and who/what did she do, to deserve that high paying job?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sunray, I'll let you know soon. Suffice it to say I'm going to try to get them asked in a way that will get them answered.

Anonymous said...

my question is do you take into account when a person has a mental illness? and if they have taken lots of schooling and got lots of awards?

Anonymous said...

Do you take into account they have no cases against them? Do you ever interview any of Inmates? Why are you making decisions for paroles when that is not your job? What is your job exactly?

Your husband and you should not be working in the same division. No where else is this allowed. One of you needs to go to another job.

What exactly is the roll of the parole interviewer and why are you allowed to make the decisons. Something is not right about this!

Clean house or move to another one!

Anonymous said...

If I could arrange a sabatical from my own job, would you let me shadow you for a couple of weeks so that I could see how your system works from the inside? I'd pay my own air fare.

Anonymous said...

Each offender arrived in TDCJ after sentencing from either a judge or a jury and their punishment was assessed at that time.

Why, then, is it that your board is allowing the drug and alcohol abusers with 20-year and 40-year sentences to be on our streets once again after serving a mere 2-4 years while they are requiring other classes of offenders to absolutely serve 90% of their sentences?

It is NOT up to the Board of Pardons & Parole to override that judge & jury to the extent you are currently doing with some of these offenders. Of course, I realize the alcohol and drug abusers will be back - and at an astounding rate and in an unbelievable short-lived time frame.

Furthermore, the nature of offense should not come into play by your division. The offender has already served their punishment by being placed in TDC. Once an offender is chained, cuffed and walks through the doors of the prison, they should be treated equally, regardless of their crime. It then becomes the duty of TDCJ to rehabilitate... rehabilitate... and prepare each and every offender for release to get them back on the streets for a second opportunity at life.

You and your board have been sorely lacking in your duties and responsibilities in allowing ALL offenders that opportunity.

And finally, I have a major problem with you in your position and your husband in his position within TDCJ. Absolutely nothing about that smells right!

In closing, I am a great advocate of TDCJ and I think they do a tremendous amount right. In many, many cases, they have taken a punk and returned to society a respected and respectful human being. Each and every one of them deserve their second chance.

Anonymous said...

When inmate is paroled, he has Parkinsons,Hep C and diabetic on a wheelchair why is he still required to report twice a week and to two different places for the next 5-6 years. He has already spent time in prison.

Anonymous said...

why doesn't Tx have board members who actually consider inmates stuck under the 1994 sentencing act? The Amarillo Board has totally failed in all areas of the review process regarding my husband who was seventeen years old when he entered TDCJ in 1995. He has never killed,raped,robbed,had drug/alcohol history or sexcrimes but has been in prison 13yrs flat to date. When asking pbo questions over the phone the response I get is always a joke...."Every case is different." He makes Tx alot of money and I feel thats why they continue setting him off time and time again without contacting him or his supporters. Mrs. Owens, Please embrace your position representing Tx and fix problems of the TBPP.

Anonymous said...

it amazes me that the parole commission can so bluntly deny a person parole and has never spoken to them....some people have been there for a while and all they have (rissie) is a file...if they or she even look in it!!!! but the trend is they r granting those parole that dont have anywhere to go...but they cant leave the system til they find a place and those who do have family and loved ones they get how twisted is that!!! somthing needs to be done and said about how these so called educated people on these boards are basing their decisions....cause obviously they dont care about the devastion they cause to the ones who are hoping to come and to their loved ones!!!

Anonymous said...

hey "older than dirt" ,you try get a bunch rednecks to vote fairly and do there jobi would imagine running the parole board ( is like wrangling retards).

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how many one year set offs, will they give a person before they will give a person a chance at parole?