Thursday, July 19, 2007

Parole board counts 2,324 separate Texas felonies; where will it end?

How many different ways are there to commit felonies in Texas? Certainly more ways than I could ever imagine.

I just ran across the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole's "Offense Severity List" approved in April 2007. It was posted in response to a query on the Prison Talk message board. These risk assessments are part of the guidelines ranking each type of felony under Texas state law with a baseline Low, Medium or High risk level. These rankings are supposed to assist the Board of Pardons and Parole identify who should be eligible for release, though the BPP frequently refuses to follow them.

The first thing that popped out at me was the list's length - 65 single spaced pages of lists of different felonies. It wasn't too long ago that the total number of separate felony offenses in Texas was just under 2,000, which I already thought was an eyepopping number. On this list, the Board of Pardons and Parole has identified 2,324 separate acts which the state Legislature has declared felonies!

(When God sat down to author His list of forbidden acts, readers may recall, He could only come up with ten.)

I was also interested at the rankings for several crimes. A low ranking means you're (theoretically) more likely to be released, while a high ranking should make it harder to get parole. Most violent crimes, kidnappings, murders, robberies, all but a handful of the various types of manslaughter cases all carried a "high" risk ranking. By contrast, military desertion earns a low ranking, as do immigration-related crimes. An improper relationship between a teacher and a student earns a "medium" tag.

Most business-related fraud crimes get low risk labels, while many drug crimes get medium or high.

Gambling crimes mostly are considered low risk, as is simple assault, while "stalking," "extortion" and fixing the outcome of a dog or horse race all make you "medium" risks. Bribery and bribe receiving make you a low risk. However, giving false information to gain credit over $200K makes you a high risk. Burglarizing a home, interestingly, gets you a higher risk factor (M) label than burglarizing a business (L).

See the full list here, but it's still hard to get out of my head: 2,324 separate felonies on the books in Texas, and thousands more misdemeanors beyond that. Talk about overcriminalized.

I've said many times before why I think we wind up with so many complex and redundant laws:
Bills increasing penalties for crimes are to legislators what poetry is to the artist - a written form of self expression. It's a way legislators say, "This is what I stand for. This is what I'm against." Well, who isn't against child molestation? That's hardly the point if jacked up penalties make family members less likely to report crimes.
By now, though, with more than 2,300 felonies on the books, isn't it clear what the politicians are against? Must we really continue to jack up penalties incessantly just to make a statement that's already been made ad nauseum? Marc Levin at the Texas Public Policy Foundation has suggested "Arresting the Growth of Criminal Law in Texas," and I couldn't agree more. The trend in Texas toward overcriminalization had become a caricature already more than a decade ago - today it's just a clusterf#$K.


Vox Populi said...

show em the money. that's all it's about. Great article !!!

Kyle Maxwell said...

When God sat down to author His list of forbidden acts, readers may recall, he could only come up with ten.

This isn't entirely accurate. While the Ten Commandments are the most well-known, the big hitters, there were actually over 600 laws in the Mosaic Law, most of which were prohibitions (though obviously some were prescriptive).

That's still something like one-quarter of the Texas list, though...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

And surely, Kyle, some of those were the equivalent of "misdemeanors."

That said, I'd call the Big Ten those that were written by God, literally handed down in his own hand on stone tablets, while the rest of "Mosaic law" was clearly a human-generated affair. But I take your point. best,

Anonymous said...

Living in Texas means you might be committing a crime every single day. With 2,324 possibilities, that's just over 6 different crimes you could commit every single day of the year.

Of course many of these 'crimes' don't have a victim. You'd better hope you don't make an enemy that wants to have you arrested ruin your life. Remember, Felons are never forgiven and are prevented from work in over 200 types of work.

It is dangerous to live in Texas! With so many activities criminalized, your chances of doing something wrong are far too great!

Anonymous said...

I would imagine one could fart in the wind in this state, get labeled an SO and do life. It is apparent our legislators have far too much time on their hands or they would be working on issues that could benefit Texans rather than incarcerate them.

Least you forget, these 2000 plus laws don't apply to corrupt cops, guards, wardens, and state officials.

Anonymous said...

The fact remains that the BPP should not be denying parole on the basis of the crime originally committed. It is the court's job to sentence people at time of offence and the BPP's job to decide if the inmate can be released into society AT THE TIME OF PAROLE APPLICATION. To keep using the excuse of "nature of offence" to deny parole is far exceeding their remit and I find it deplorable that the fate of so many is in the hands of so few who seem completely unaccountable to the public or the people they are supposed to be dealing with.

Anonymous said...

100% WITH YOU SUNRAY! gosh wish the ppb would wake up. Lord, let them come to God with open arms, and let our loved ones come home! I wonder if they believe in God! Or if they go to Church? I would like to see what Church they go to? Just to see if they are there as a Hypocrites. But God knows and will take care of them soon!

Anonymous said...

My husband just got denied parole for the very same reason sunrayswench said. I think the BPP should walk some times in our shoes to remember who they are. They are not human. Only 2 men voted on my husband. both were "unavailbe" for me to talk to. They said that since the "case" was already voted on, then the board members who voted wouldn't know anything about the case. HUH??? Did they just scan the page and say "oh he can't mind so we'll just keep him for 32 months. How cna these "people" play God with somebody's life. I'm being punshed right along with my husband. I didn't do any thing wrong. I know I'm whinning. But i get so angry at BPP for the way the just set people off for 3 or more years. They say they have too much to do. THAT IS THEIR JOB. If they would release some of the people in TDCJ then they wouldn't be quite so busy, now would they. 2,324 separate felonies!!!!!! Sneezin will probably get you life.

Anonymous said...

Is this the proper forum to mention My husband missed meetings - after 13 yrs on parole with nothing wrong - he was been revoked, back in 1-1/2 years at this point - last Nov. received a 5-year setoff - inability to adjust to parole rules (bull) and original offense - I have a few choice words to say about that, but they have the control - it's all about money, as it is making everything illegal -

Anonymous said...

Ok, everyone. So what now? We all have the same issues, the same complaints. It's time to stop talking and start working. Get names numbers, keep records, send in your complaints to the man who really made this state to the current condition. Oh, Yeh. our own Mr. President. He stood by and placed this good for nothing, money hungry Governor in this seat after help pass these crazy laws. Also he set this prison system above the law. Write him let him know you are not alone. Get others to write also. Don't give up. Did you know there is also a lawsuit that is being set fourth as we speak. Get Connected, work smarter not harder. Go to and learn more.My husband has been denied 4 times already too. I know your pain, I know your fustration,but hold on remember we are the people. We can influence. Take a stand take a chance fight for your right to speak. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF. They can't hurt us. We aren't thier prisoners we have rights.

Anonymous said...

Since I live in Texas, it seems that "everything I do is either illegal, immoral or fattening".

Anonynothing Whatever

Anonymous said...

Are we sure all the crimes listed in the .doc file are actually felonies?

Listed were crimes like "Drunkenness", "Loitering", "Curfew", "Making False Report", "Disorderly Conduct", and "Disturbing the Peace".

As crazy as some states have become, I seriously doubt those are Felonies.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The parole board doesn't handle misdemeanants. I'm pretty sure this is a felony list and suspect those must be enhanced versions of those crimes.