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The Parole Guideline Score: What You Need to Know

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

The Parole Guideline Score: What You Need to Know

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Once you’re in prison, you think of nothing else but getting out. But how do you know when that will be? You know what your sentence is, but you also know that many people aren’t required to spend the entire time behind prison walls. 

The parole guideline score is a somewhat vague metric that the Parole Panel uses to determine whether or not to approve parole when your time comes. Learning more about the score and what goes into its determination can help you help yourself while you’re still inside.

Defining the Parole Guideline Score

The parole guideline score is a risk assessment score assigned to each offender who is up for parole consideration. The criminal justice system in Texas broadly describes the guideline but leaves most of the details hidden from the public. 

Several factors affect the parole guideline score:

  • Your current (active) sentence
  • Your prior criminal record
  • Your prison conduct (how you behaved)
  • The statistical risk assigned to you
  • Your age 
  • Your educational or programming performance
  • Your mental health
  • Where you are housed within the prison

An active sentence is a negative draw on your score. The number of points subtracted depends on the severity of your offense. You also lose points for prior offenses, including any juvenile record. Again, the severity of the offense determines the value of the negative points.

Against those, the guideline considers your prison conduct. Your major misconduct and security classification increases this factor in parole decisions. If you assault someone, participate in a riot, or commit a homicide, your negative points become heavy indeed.

On the other hand, the board considers when those behaviors occurred, which might improve the score.

The board assigns statistical risk to you in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term, impacting your chances of parole. Your age can also be a factor, although it isn’t considered for the short-term risk. 

If you are 28 or older, you receive positive medium and long-term risk. If you are under 28, you receive negative points. 

Are you taking educational courses? Your grades are a reflection of your commitment to getting paroled. Completion and adequate grades for recommended and approved programming provide positive points. 

You receive negative points if you don’t complete a course or receive poor grades.

You receive significant negative scoring if you have a history of sexual offenses related to “compulsive, deviant, or psychotic states.” And if you are housed in a high-security area requiring increased management, you get negative points since such housing typically indicates you’ve had problems while in prison.

If you can remain in lower security units that don’t require high management, you don’t receive positive points, but you also don’t earn negative ones.

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Parole Guideline Components

The parole guidelines rest on two components — the Risk Assessment Instrument and the Offense Severity Class.

The Offense Severity Class is a simple classification system applied to every felony offense in the Texas statutes. If you are incarcerated for more than one offense, the parole panel uses the most severe offense when selecting the severity class.

Offense Severity Class ranges from low to H+ (super high risk). Here are some examples of each risk class:

  • Low risk: traffic tickets or negligently abandoning a child
  • Moderate risk: self-abortions, promoting prostitution, delivering more than 200 pounds of marijuana
  • High-risk: possessing more than 400 grams of a controlled substance or delivering more than 2000 pounds of marijuana, arson, murder
  • H+: arson to a business with people inside, burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony other than theft, capital murder, smuggling persons with the likelihood of causing death

The higher your Offense Severity Class, the less likely you are to gain parole.

The Risk Assessment Instrument weighs the static and dynamic factors associated with your record. Static factors run from zero to 10 points, with zero the lowest risk. Dynamic factors run from zero to nine, with zero at the lowest risk.

A higher score is associated with a higher risk in granting parole, so the lower your risk, the more likely you can gain parole. If you are female, your risk scale is different from a male.

Static Factors

Static factors don’t change over time. Also, they are more closely associated with your prior criminal record. Unfortunately, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice doesn’t state how these factors are weighted or used in calculating your risk of re-offending.

Static factors include:

  • Your age at your first admission into a juvenile or adult correctional facility
  • Your history of supervisory release revocations for felony offenses
  • Your prior incarcerations
  • Your employment history
  • Your commitment offense

Being younger when you are first incarcerated isn’t helpful. Instead, youth places you at the lowest probability of success because it indicates early involvement in the criminal justice system. Statistically, younger people are more likely to re-offend. 

An early history with law enforcement and incarceration also reduces your chances of having a good employment history, another hit against your score.

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Dynamic Factors

Dynamic factors change over time and apply to your current circumstances. Dynamic factors include:

  • Your current age
  • Whether you are a member of a confirmed security threat group (gang)
  • Your educational, vocational, and certified on-the-job training program completion during your present incarceration
  • Any prison disciplinary conduct
  • Your current prison custody level
Assigned Risk Level Score

Your static and dynamic score is added together for your assigned risk level score.

  • Low risk – 3 or less
  • Moderate risk – 4 to 8
  • High risk – 9 to 15
  • Over 16 – risk to too high to grant parole 

Once your Risk Assessment Instrument and Offense Severity Class results are fed into a matrix, you receive your Parole Guideline Score, which helps guide the parole panel’s decision.

A Parole Guideline Score of 1 indicates an individual with the poorest probability of successfully gaining parole. Someone with a score of 7 has the greatest probability of success. However, these guidelines are not automatic and do not give anyone the right to parole. 

Parole panel members have the discretion to vote outside the guidelines when circumstances merit it. Therefore, a low score doesn’t mean you have no chance of parole. Alternatively, a high score does not guarantee parole.

Why You Need an Attorney

The critical goal for an inmate is to be granted parole or early release from a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the methodology used to determine who merits parole and who doesn’t is somewhat shrouded in secrecy. Also, the parole panel has the discretion to ignore the parole guideline score depending on the circumstances of your case.

An experienced parole attorney can help you make your case for parole and assist you in identifying ways to improve your score. A great parole guideline score never hurts.

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