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What to Expect During a Parole Hearing

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What to Expect During a Parole Hearing

If you or someone you love is eligible for parole, you may have questions about what to expect during a parole hearing.

Before the inmate is released from incarceration and placed on parole, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles conducts a parole hearing. Members of the parole panel consider whether the inmate is ready for release from prison and community supervision.

The parole hearing isn’t a guarantee that the inmate will be granted parole. However, it may provide the inmate with an excellent opportunity to express why he or she is prepared to return to the community.

Preparing for the parole hearing—and knowing what to expect during a parole hearing in advance—can help the inmate to better his or her chances of being granted community supervision.

Do you know someone who is eligible for parole?
Contact attorney Greg Tsioros today to get them the help they need 

What is Parole?

When the inmate is granted parole, he or she is allowed to serve a portion of his or her prison sentence in the community.

Parole may be granted once the offender becomes parole-eligible if he or she 1) adhered to and observed rules of the prison, 2) will obey local, state, and federal laws (and won’t promote disrespect for the law and/or the criminal justice system), and 3) won’t jeopardize public welfare and safety.

What’s the Purpose of Parole?

Parole’s three primary goals are to re-integrate the offender into the community as a contributing and productive member:

  • He or she may receive assistance (from his or her community supervision officer) with housing, finances, work, or personal problems that might surface in making an adjustment to life after prison.
  • He or she is assisted by the structure of parole to re-establish his or her life in the community (without recidivism).
  • He or she wants to obey the law and is unlikely to commit new offenses.

What to Expect During a Parole Hearing

Members of the parole panel schedule a hearing date. The inmate is notified by a case manager about the hearing date.
The inmate may have the option to attend the hearing. His or her parole eligibility is determined by the nature of the original offense for which he or she was imprisoned.

The parole hearing provides a chance for the inmate to express thoughts about why he or she is a good risk for release. It’s a chance for him or her to express feelings about the offense as well as what he or she has accomplished and learned in prison.

In addition, the parole hearing allows the inmate to present evidence that shows he or she has remorse for previous actions and that, if granted parole, he or she will succeed.

Parole hearing elements

The parole hearing may include 1) a written description of the original offense (for which he or she was sent to prison), 2) a recap of his or her achievements and behavior in prison, and 3) his or her plans for the future, outside of prison, 4) an explanation of how he or she will manage challenges, and 5) his or her criminal history, and the likelihood that he or she will commit new offenses.

In some instances, victims and/or their families are present at the parole hearing. The victim(s), or his/her/their representatives, are there to explain to the state of Texas why they believe the offender should or shouldn’t be granted parole.

Members of the parole panel take these opinions into account before making a decision to grant or deny parole.

Parole Letter

Preparing a parole application letter is essential to the parole hearing process. The letter provides the inmate with the ability to express why he or she should be granted parole.

The letter is sent to members of the parole panel. If the letter is compelling to the parole board, it may influence the decision to deny or grant community supervision to the inmate. That’s one of the best reasons to put substantial effort into the preparation of the parole letter.

The letter should include 1) recap of the original offense (for which he or she is serving time in prison now) and any prior offenses, 2) how he or she has bettered himself/herself and what he or she has learned from the experience, 3) achievements in prison, 4) his or her employment, education, and life plans if granted parole, and 5) how he or she anticipates future challenges, and what skills and strategies he or she will use to deal with them.

Family members, previous or potential employers, prison staff, members of the clergy, counselors and others in good community standing may write letters on behalf of the inmate. These references and recommendations of the inmate can compel members of the parole panel to grant parole.

The parole letter must be respectful and formally written. It shouldn’t make light of the seriousness of the offense or present in a defensive way, e.g. the trial was unfair or unjust. The inmate shouldn’t blame anyone else for his or her actions or accuse others of wrongful behaviors. The goal of the parole letter is to definitively accept responsibility for past events while building a strong case for his or her success in life outside of prison.

Parole Interview

If the inmate is allowed to attend the parole hearing, he or she appears before the members to be interviewed.
The parole panel will ask questions about 1) criminal history, 2) time is prison, and 3) future plans if granted parole.

A parole interview often feels intimidating to an unprepared inmate. It’s helpful to practice sample questions and answers with an experienced parole lawyer.

It’s important for the inmate to remain calm, respectful, and courteous during the interview. He or she must not beg for parole or express anger at the past.

The inmate must state the case, reference his or her achievements in prison, and demonstrate a solid employment and lodging plan if granted parole.

He or she should also address future participation in substance abuse rehabilitation or treatment organizations and any groups that have assisted them in self-development.

For these reasons and others, it’s important to contact a knowledgeable parole lawyer before the parole hearing. He will help the offender to prepare for the interview questions and answers from members of the parole panel and to present an action plan if released.

Basics of a Parole Revocation Hearing

Once the inmate is granted parole, he or she must carefully follow the rules of his or her supervised released.

Many parolees live with a heightened sense of concern about violating any of the T&Cs of parole. Some of them are relatively easy to violate.

Unfortunately, the burden required to prove a parole violation is much less in a parole revocation hearing than the burden necessary to prove he or she was guilty of the original criminal offense. Clearly, navigating the revocation process is complex, frustrating, and very difficult without an experienced parole lawyer’s insight.

Here’s what to expect before and during a parole revocation hearing (Texas Government Code, Chapter 508).

Before the parole revocation hearing
  • The parole revocation hearing is less formal in most ways than a criminal trial
  • After the parolee is alleged of violating parole, the parole officer requests a blue warrant.
  • The blue warrant is issued. The parolee is then arrested (either he or she turns himself/herself in or a warrant check is made.
  • The parolee is transported to jail or prison, where he or she waits (without bail) for the parole revocation hearing.
  • Rarely, the parolee is released prior to the parole revocation hearing (along with a summons to appear at the date/time of the hearing).
Parole revocation hearing

Three types of people will attend the hearing:

  • The parolee should anticipate that the hearing officer, and possibly the parole officer, will attend the hearing.
  • The parolee may bring his or her defense attorney to the hearing.
  • Witnesses may appear to support the parole officer’s conclusion that parole was violated, or to support the parolee’s case.

Evidence is offered at the hearing. The parole officer presents his or her evidence, at the hearing officer’s request, and provides a copy of the parolee’s certificate of parole. This step serves to confirm jurisdiction over the parolee.

Next, the hearing officer asks the parolee if he or she wishes their rights to be read, or if he or she waives the reading of these rights.

Then, the hearing officer recaps each alleged violation of parole.

The parolee is provided with the opportunity to deny or confirm each alleged violation. Later, he or she is provided with the chance to present his or her side of the story.

The hearing officer next takes evidence from the parole officer, consisting of 1) documentary evidence (e.g. the violation report that alleges the T&Cs the parolee violated), 2) videos, 3) witnesses, and so forth, depending on the allegations.

The parolee, and/or his or her legal counsel, has the right to object to the offered evidence. He or she has the opportunity to cross-examine and/or confront any evidence, witness, or testimony made against him or her.

When the parole officer completes this step, the parolee may testify, present evidence (e.g. affidavits, testimony, pictures, witnesses, letters, etc.). He or she may tell the hearing officer what happened. (Note: the parolee isn’t required to do this. The parole officer has the burden of proof. However, the parolee’s decision to explain the circumstances may help to clarify the facts.)

Parole revocation decisions

After the available evidence is presented, the hearing officer considers the case and makes a finding.
If the hearing officer finds that the parolee didn’t violate the terms and conditions, he or she recommends against revocation of parole (to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles).

Contact Houston parole attorney Greg Tsioros about your case »

Adjustment phase

If the hearing officer finds that the parolee violated any of the T&Cs, the hearing proceeds to the adjustment phase.
The parole officer then enters an adjustment statement into evidence that typically specifies how the parolee has performed on parole. The statement usually contains the parolee’s criminal history, his or her timely repayment of fines, fees, and restitution, his or her home situation, indications of drug or substance abuse, and his or her compliance with special conditions.

The adjustment statement will also state whether the parolee is eligible for electronic monitoring (EM) on continued supervision and/or if he or she is eligible for an Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF). The statement will indicate the parolee’s verified residence, if released.

The hearing officer asks for the parole officer’s recommendations and closes the hearing.

Evidence presented at the hearing is forwarded to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for their vote about next steps. Usually, it takes the parole panel two to three weeks to reach a decision.

At that point, the parolee is informed of their conclusion and reasons for the decision.

If the decision is made to revoke his or her parole, the parolee has 60 days from the decision date to ask for a reopening of the hearing.

Contact an Experienced Texas Parole Lawyer

Parole hearings and parole revocation hearings may be viewed as opportunities to gain or maintain supervised released in the community.

Most inmates receive just a few minutes’ consideration by members of the parole panel. Hiring an experienced Texas parole attorney can improve the outcome of a parole hearing or parole revocation hearing.

To prepare for a parole hearing, answer questions at a parole hearing interview, present a cohesive and compelling parole packet and letter to the parole panel, or provide a strong defense at a parole revocation hearing, you need a knowledgeable parole lawyer at your side.

Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros in Houston at 832-752-5972 to schedule an initial case evaluation now.

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