Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tidbits from the parole board's 'self-evaluation'

A couple of notable items from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles' "self evaluation" (pdf) for the Sunset Commission:

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:

Parole Approval rates:

2006: 26.26%
2007: 29.82%
2008: 30.74%
2009: 30.26%
2010: 31.01%

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.

Technical revocations
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 Of offenders sent back to prison after their parole was revoked (28,969 people in fy 2010), says the self-evaluation, 12,573 or 43% of those revoked were for technical violations only.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 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.
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.

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.


sunray's wench said...

Nothing about the BPP surprises me any more.

Anonymous said...

We should learn about the parole process. Some say maybe we should learn how to avoid having to go to prison in the first place.

ckikerintulia said...

I notice 43% of parolees sent back to prison were for technical violations, whereas 42% were sent back for a new conviction. If the number sent back for technical violations could be cut back to say 20%, what impact would this have on the prison population 5 years down the road?

I realize technical violations constitute a tricky problem. What percentage of technical violators are sent back? If parole and probation are to have any meaning, there must be some cost to violation. At what point does the tech viol become cause for sending back to the joint?

Kevin Stouwie said...

The report is an interesting window into the BPP's function snd how it looks at itself.

With state budget cutbacks and population growth, and as long as the counties keep up the diligent prosecution of crime, both the real crime and the ridiculous stuff, the BPP is the only means to keep the Texas prison system from overheating.

I agree that the numbers should continue to trend slightly upward, and I suspect the overall release rate will reach 35% within 3 years.

One meaningful way to ease the pressure of potential overcrowding would be to ease up on the prosecutorial tendency to try to get so many of their convictions classified as 3g. Non 3g offenders at least get considered a whole lot earlier than the 3g folks, and the facts of the crimes are often not so different as to justify such a disparity in terms of when the offender can be considered for parole.

RSO wife said...

What exactly is a "technical violation" anyway? And who interprets what is and is not a "technical violation"? Seems like this leaves a whole lot to chance. The BPP is so full of it's own self importance that it can't see the forest for the trees.

Deborah said...

I'm gonna post something again with no hope it will be posted on here. My husband was picked up in 2009 in NM and extradited back to Texas; he has now been incarcerated for over 28 months. The BPP claims "he was violated for being "out of the State of Texas without permission of a parole officer." Let me give you a background; my husband served 4.6 years of a 15 yr sentence on a "theft by check" (the check $1100) with 2 prior convictions with time served. His attorney played "let's make a deal" with the prosecutor, for a plea bargain for 15 years. He got out on parole (this was all before he met me) and he and his then girlfriend got into a 'tussle', police were called, but his gf went to the police station and no charges were filed, but parole claims there was a blue warrant (which never came up- it was never filed!) his parole officer quit him. He tried to find him/her, never changed his address. So his parole ended December 2007. He met me, landed a great engineering job in NM. So we filed two 11.07 and have repeatedly requested BPP produce the (nonexistent) parole officer and the paperwork--- in over s year, they have not complied! My 'take' on the situation is my husband 'fell thru the beaurocratic cracks in the BPP". I read somewhere that their computers were inefficient during this time? So our 11.07 cases have been in the federal district court since February 2010, the state has fought us 'tooth and nail' cos they don't want to admit they were wrong and basically kidnapped my husband and have held him hostage for over two years. Thank you for listening. (commenters, please be kind! I am fragile!)

A Texas PO said...

RSO Wife- A technical violation is any violation of the terms or conditions of probation or parole that are not a new criminal offense/conviction. Not reporting, not paying fees, not attending counseling/therapy sessions, associating with persons of disreputable character, drug use, etc., all constitute technical violations.

Anonymous said...

On the "parole revocation" numbers, I believe you are combining parole revocations (which the parole board controls) with probation revocations (which local disrict court judges control). The parole board has significantly reduced revocations, especially techncial revocations in the last few years.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, regarding the Clemency Section and the underlings.

I had the opportunity to deal with these goofballs while in the process of applying for a Full Pardon based on the information in my HPD Police Incident Report, Certified Case File & mug shot. Since I was claiming innocence and showing police & prosecutorial misconduct (corruption) they had me apply for a Full Pardon - for innocence at the same time.

Here's the rub and how the staff plays games with applicants. The regular pardon requires one to show how they have been 'rehabilitated' while the other seeks information showing your 'innocence'. Once the board member receives your "Package" he/she scans it and denies. Then when your second "Package" arrives they simply don't even open it. The proof of this was revealed when they all voted to denie the Regular and only one voted to approve the For Innocence.

There are no incentives to approve a Full Pardon - for innocence. Doing so would make the headlines and put the former detectives and ADAs turned Judge in a bad light. A denial is a cover up by the appointed and dealing with the goofballs is a headache designed to make you go away. They only approve a few here and there to make the reports seem like they are working. The $308,476 yearly joke is on the taxpayers. Sadly the incompetent underlings that worked with me received promotions and now have greater power. Thanks.

*Folks, please don't recognize 7:38AM . Doing so is like feeding the strays.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:29, I don't see why they'd be reporting probation numbers in the parole board's "self evaluation." I think those are all parole revocations.

TexasGuy said...

From my experiece with the parole system in Texas, parole is usually revoked for technical violations after there have been repeated attempts to address the parolee's non-compliance with the rules.

Additionally, there are some cases in which technical violations are more serious. For example a registered child sex offender violating the condition requiring him not to be around children.

Usually parolees in Texas are allowed to fail drug test numerous times before their parole is revoked. But I think that it should be noted that each time a parolee test positive for cocaine for example(and the test is supported by admission of use) the parolee committed a new felony when he possessed and used the drug. Therefore, just because parole was revoked for a technical gives no clear picture of the danger the parolee was to the community. Do we really want parolees who have committed serious felonies to be allowed to repeatedly use drugs like cocaine while they are on parole.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Can someone provide an answer to why there is such a relative disproportion of men being paroled over woman? Notice the operative term relative in the question. The disproportion of men to woman incarcerated and the “random policy of the day” attitude of the bpp aside, I’m attempting to wrap my head around this interesting statistical outlier. I understand the importance of inmate head count as it relates to staff count and the Gatesville people are more than likely the best at this type of tax fraud manipulations. I’m just curious if someone could provide any logical reasons behind this statistic beyond the obvious, continued unnecessary incarceration to support your staff count. Looking at a sample data set of denial for parole for woman one has to wonder, are these people making these critical life decisions actually capable? Many would say no, however I’m seeing one interesting aspect of this data; characteristics that would make a female inmate eligible to participate in continued incarceration to maintain staff head count. These bpp people may be smarter than given credit.

Techs only said...

I have a blue warrant for tech violations, no new charges. I am supposed to discharge in a month. I want to turn myself in and clear it up but don't want to do the fifteen months left on sentence. Recently got married and have developed serious health problems. What should I do?