What is parole?
Parole is the discretionary release of an inmate from prison by the parole board, which allows the parolee to serve the remainder of his or her sentence under supervision while integrating themselves back into the community. Inmates seeking parole have strict eligibility requirements and guidelines they must follow in order to be considered for parole. Inmates may only receive parole if they are approved by the parole board and have served enough of their sentence to be eligible under state law. In many cases, an experienced Texas parole attorney can help maximize an inmate’s chances of being granted parole.
In most first, second, and third-degree felony cases, an inmate is parole eligible after serving a quarter of the sentence. Certain serious offenses known as 3g offenses require an inmate to serve half the sentence before becoming parole eligible. These offenses are typically violent or sexually motivated offenses such as aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault or any offense where a deadly weapon is involved. An offender who received a life sentence after 1993 must serve at least 40 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole.
It is important to remember that parole is not automatic, but rather, the inmate is eligible to apply for parole after serving a certain period of time. Some offenders, including those who sentenced to death or life in prison without parole, are never eligible to be released on parole.
What does a parole attorney do?
It’s common for family members and loved ones to want to assist an inmate coming up for parole. What many do not realize is that it is vitally important to prepare and submit a parole packet months before the hearing date. A parole attorney can do several things to assist in this process. First, the attorney can obtain records relating to the inmate’s incarceration. This is an opportunity to highlight the inmate’s behavior and achievements while in custody. This could include everything from a lack of disciplinary infractions to GED certificates. The parole attorney can also assist in gathering records of the inmate’s life before incarceration. This could include documentation of job skills, school records, and letters of recommendation. Most importantly, the parole attorney will assist in preparing and submitting a comprehensive written parole packet for the parole board.
Experienced parole attorneys often think outside the box and could use affidavits, videos, recordings, and trial transcripts to put together compelling parole packets. They should also assist in developing and fine-tuning a personal evaluation statement, as well as coordinating and obtaining letters of support. This means more than reviewing the letters for grammar and style. Parole attorneys are very aware of what to say – and what not to say. Astute parole attorneys provide clients and their supporters with guidance on what information the letters of support should and shouldn’t contain.
The parole attorney will also ascertain and discuss future employment opportunities, housing, and resources to create a plan-of-action upon release. The parole board must be convinced that the inmate will not be a threat to the public when they are released. The attorney will also coordinate with the parole board to make sure deadlines are met and that they receive all the materials well in advance of their decision. Finally, the attorney will appear in person or by telephone, pursuant to family’s decision at the time of hiring, and advocate for the release of the inmate.
Parole is a unique area of the law, and an area that many criminal defense attorneys actually shy away from. Having an experienced parole attorney on your side could make the difference between a successful parole hearing and an unsuccessful one.
What factors does the parole board consider in making the decision to grant parole?
The board uses a variety of factors in determining whether to release an inmate on parole. The panel will decide whether the inmate has been rehabilitated to the point that they can safely be integrated and become a productive member of the community. The parole board will consider numerous elements including, but not limited to:
- the nature of the initial offense;
- inmate’s criminal history;
- length of time served;
- participation in prison programs;
- age and education level;
- amount of family and community support; and
- whether inmate is likely to offend again.
What is the purpose of a parole packet?
A parole packet consists of materials submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole in support of an inmate with the goal of getting released early. A parole packet is advantageous to help convince the parole board that the offender has been rehabilitated. Due to the fact that interviews by the parole board are not commonly granted because so many applications are received, an effective parole packet is key to obtaining early release. The submission of a packet is a great opportunity for the voting panel to obtain information regarding the inmate’s character, level of rehabilitation, and future plans.
Why is submitting a parole packet important?
A parole packet is designed to portray the inmate in the best possible light to try to convince the parole board that he or she is ready to be released into the community, and will succeed on parole. Due to the massive volume of cases the parole board has to review on a daily basis, only a few minutes are probably spent reviewing each offender’s file. This is why a parole packet is extremely critical to the process. The submission of an organized and well thought-out packet is essential to distinguish an inmate’s file from the thousands of others. It greatly increases the chances of being granted a favorable vote.
What materials will a parole packet include?
An effective parole packet will contain materials that show the offender has recognized their mistakes and has had the opportunity to learn and grow from their period of incarceration. Typically, a well-planned packet will contain a request for an interview, a parole plan, risk assessment scoring, support letters, educational history, and pictures, as well as a variety of other materials designed to show the human nature of the applicant and that they are remorseful.
A request for an interview with the board member panel should be made on behalf of the inmate. This is important because an interview will give the offender the opportunity to speak to the members directly to convince them that he or she has been rehabilitated. Although interviews are not granted in most cases, a request by an attorney can greatly increase the chances of an interview.
It is important to show the parole board the inmate has the support of family members and friends so when he or she is granted parole, they will have a support system in place. Letters of support and photographs are often included in the parole packet to show that the inmate has a network to provide emotional, social and even financial support. The inclusion of letters of support will show that there are people who care for the inmate and that someone is available to provide help once released. Typically, four to six letters are appropriate – any more than that may not be read. Pictures of the inmate with friends and family will also help show that there is a human element to the person requesting parole.
A parole plan will need to be included to show that, if released, the inmate has a comprehensive plan in place to succeed on parole and remain in the community. The plan should include where the inmate plans to live, employment plans, family support and life changes that will be made to improve the chances of succeeding on parole.
The parole packet should also include information regarding the inmate’s risk assessment scoring and offense security level. However, this should only be provided if it is favorable to the inmate. It is also important to include the inmate’s educational history and any TDCJ programs taken while in prison, including earned work degrees or certificates. This documentation will show the inmate is dedicated to improving, has the ability to follow directions, and hopefully will be able to support themselves once released.
It is important to contact a parole attorney to submit a packet that is effective, clear, organized and well-written. It should tell the story of the offender’s life and his or her plan for the future. It is estimated only 30 percent of eligible inmates are granted parole. With this low number, a comprehensive parole packet will help distinguish one inmate from thousands of others and bring them home early.
What is the parole process in Texas and should I hire a Texas parole attorney?
The process for parole begins about six months before an inmate is eligible to come up for parole for the first time. At that time, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will send notice to inmates whose date for parole eligibility is approaching. After the notice is received, an institutional parole officer reviews the inmate’s file, interviews the offender and prepares a case summary for the parole board to review.
After reviewing the file, the parole board may then grant an interview with the offender if it feels one is necessary. A parole board interview is completely discretionary and, in most cases, an interview is not granted. However, an interview by the parole board is much more likely to be granted if a parole attorney requests one. The final step is for the board members to make their decision after reviewing the file and conducting any interviews with the inmate, victims or family members. In most cases, two of the three members on the parole panel must agree to release an inmate, however some offenses may require review by the entire parole board instead of just the three-member panel.
The ideal time to contact a Texas parole attorney is when the offender receives notification that they are coming up for parole for the first time.
What are the rules and restrictions of parole in Texas?
If released on parole, the parolee must follow certain rules while on release and are subject to revocation for any violation of the rules. Rules of parole include but are not limited to:
- Reporting to the parole officer as instructed;
- Obeying all state and federal laws;
- Obtaining parole officer’s written permission before leaving the state;
- Prohibition against owning or possessing firearms;
- Avoiding persons who are felons; and
- Paying monthly supervision and administrative fees.
It is very important that all rules and restrictions are closely followed when an offender is out on parole. Once a parolee has committed a violation and is revoked, it is much more difficult to receive parole in the future, even if they become eligible again.