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Defining Parole: Parole Review

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Defining Parole: Parole Review

Parole is the early release from prison to serve the rest of your sentence in the community. Parole is not automatic nor guaranteed, but many Texas inmates are eligible.

You can become eligible for parole by following these steps:

  • Observing and adhering to the prison rules
  • Agreeing to obey local, state, and federal laws and not promote disrespect for the law or criminal justice system
  • Avoiding jeopardizing public safety and welfare

Parole review begins around six months before the proposed parole date. 

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Governance of the Parole Process in Texas

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles governs the parole process in the state. It is responsible for determining whether or not to release an inmate to parole or mandatory supervision. It also determines the conditions of release and any sanctions or potential for release revocation for offenders violating those conditions.

The governor appoints the Board of Pardons and Parole members for six-year terms pending State Senate approval. The Board Chair appoints 14 Parole Commissioners to assist the Board with parole and revocation decisions.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) performs pre-release planning and supervises parolees and mandatory supervision offenders after they are released into the community.

Calculating Eligibility for Parole

The TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division’s Classification Records Office calculates your parole eligibility date, which includes the percentage of your sentence you must serve as determined by statute and the nature of your offense. 

This chart, contained in the Appendix of the publication Parole in Texas, is a good resource to learn how the parole date, type of offense, and the laws in effect at the time of conviction affect your parole eligibility.

If you were convicted of a crime that included the use of a deadly weapon, you are not eligible for parole until the actual calendar time served equals one-half of the imposed sentence or 30 calendar years, whichever comes first. The Board cannot consider good conduct time under these circumstances.

Also, no inmate with a deadly weapon offense can become eligible for parole release in less than two calendar years. 

The Panel consists of three voters, at least one of whom is a Board member. Any combination of Board members and parole commissioners may vote on the parole decision. 

Certain cases defined in Government Code Sections 508.046 and 508.141 may be paroled only after a two-thirds majority vote of the entire seven-member Board occurs. These include:

  • Continuous human trafficking
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child or disabled individual
  • Engaging in sexual conduct with a child or causing a child to engage in sexual contact
  • Aggravated sexual assault 
  • Medically recommended intensive supervision for those with a sentence of death or life without parole

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Parole Review

Approximately six months before your parole eligibility date, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice goes on the clock to prepare a file for the Parole Board to use in voting. The TDCJ may or may not complete an inmate interview during that time. The six-month clock also allows your parole attorney to prepare and submit a parole packet and support materials to the Board to assist with their decision.

The process includes the following steps:

  • A notice sent to inmates eligible for parole and the victim’s family members, attorneys, and other trial officials
  • A brief interview between the inmate and an Institutional Parole Officer
  • A Board review of the inmate’s life summary and prison file
  • A Board interview, if requested by the victim or the inmate’s attorney
  • The Board decision

An institutional parole officer conducts your interview and prepares a written report for Board submission, usually about three to five weeks before your parole eligibility vote. However, you only attend the parole interview conducted by the Parole Panel, which may occur at a parole attorney’s request if there are special circumstances. 

A parole interview with the Panel occurs a few days before the vote. It includes the Panel members, your parole attorney, and other witnesses.   

Offenders, except those convicted of an offense under Government Code Section 508.149(a), receive an annual review. Section 508.149(a) lists convictions that make offenders ineligible for mandatory supervision. 

If the Board denies an offender parole, also known as a set-off, the Board sets the next review date for that individual. Again, a review process commences a few months before that date.

When considering parole or mandatory supervision release, the Parole Panel considers the following:

  • The seriousness of the offense(s)
  • Letters of support and protest
  • The sentence length and how much time you have served
  • The number of previous prison incarcerations
  • Your criminal history and other arrests, probation, and parole
  • Your juvenile history
  • Your institutional adjustment
  • Your age

The Parole Board does not perform a simple approve or deny vote. It must choose from eleven variations and multiple mandatory conditions. The Board looks at life skills, educational program participation, sex offender counseling, addiction program participation, and more.

If the Board denies parole, it is not required to explain the decision.

Preparing for Parole Review

You should begin your preparation for parole review at least one year before the date of the Board vote. Use the time to prepare a parole packet, which helps make the case for your release. The packet combines everything the Board requires to make a judgment, including your educational, disciplinary, and employment history.

The packet also tells the Board your parole plans, including statements from potential employers and proof you will have a place to live outside of prison.

Why You Need an Attorney

Early release from prison is not a foregone conclusion, and for some crimes, there is no early release possible. However, if you are eligible for parole after serving a portion of your time, you can increase your chances of early release by hiring a parole attorney to help you prepare a parole packet and speak on your behalf during the Board hearing.

Greg Tsioros is an experienced parole attorney who can guide you through your time in prison and the parole review process.

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