HOMEPAROLE OVERVIEW > What to Expect from the Parole Process.
What can you expect during the Parole Review Process?
The Classification and Records Department of the Correctional Institutions Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice calculates the parole eligibility for everyone in TDCJ with limited exception. The percentage of a sentence that must be served before being eligible for parole depends on the nature of the offense, the laws in effect when the crime was committed, time earning status, and good conduct time credits. The good conduct laws are complicated, but good time credits can generally be earned through participation in assigned work or school programs.
Institutional Parole Officer Data Gathering and Interview.
Institutional Parole Officers (IPOs) gather information and interview inmates for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. IPOs cover 119 prison units and all 254 Texas counties. Typical information gathered by IPOs includes offense reports, medical and psychological records, institutional adjustment (in-prison behavior) records, probation reports, and parole revocation information. IPOs also interview each parole-eligible inmate (usually for less than ten minutes in our clients’ experience) and prepare a detailed case summary, which is submitted to the parole board. Like many TDCJ records, the IPO case summary is not public information that can be requested and obtained.
Parole Panel Consideration and Vote.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is the agency that decides whether to parole inmates. The parole board is comprised of twenty-one (21) board members and parole commissioners. There are seven (7) board members who are appointed for six-year terms by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The board member serving as the Presiding Officer hires fourteen (14) parole commissioners to assist the board in deciding parole cases by serving as voting members on parole panels. The vast majority of the parole board members and commissioners have extensive law enforcement, prison, or parole experience. There are seven board offices across Texas located in Amarillo, Angleton, Austin, Gatesville, Huntsville, Palestine, and San Antonio. Each office is managed by one board member and has two parole commissioners.
Parole cases are decided by the majority vote of three-person parole panels comprised of one parole board member and two parole commissioners. Parole cases are now typically circulated to each Board office electronically. Panel members review, consider, and vote cases separately. The lead voter is the first parole panel member to cast a vote on the parole case. Once the lead voter casts his or her vote, the case goes to the second voter for their separate review, consideration and vote. Based on 2018 statistics, approximately 80,000 inmates are eligible for parole annually. Of those 80,000 parole cases, roughly eighty-five percent (85%) are decided by unanimous vote of the first two panel members voting the case. On average, parole board members cast over 8,200 votes annually, which is more than four cases per work hour. Of the 80,000 parole cases, thirty-three percent (33%) are granted the privilege of parole and of those granted parole nearly forty percent (40%) are required to complete a TDCJ rehabilitation program lasting between three and eighteen months before being released on parole.
When we represent our clients, we present our parole plans to the lead voter telephonically or in person at the board office. In person hearings afford us the opportunity to present live witnesses in support of our parole plans. Our experience is that every board member and parole commissioner takes his or her responsibilities and duties very seriously, are professional and courteous, are generous with their time, and give us their full attention when we present parole plans to them. Votes are cast and decisions are typically made within one week of the parole case hearing.
Parole Approval Voting Options
The approval voting options were enacted by Senate Bill 45 in the 74th Texas Legislature and are now codified in section 508.046 of the Texas Government Code. The following table is on page seven of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles’ publication “Annual Statistical Report FY 2018,” which is available online at: 2020 Annual Statistical Report
- The offender’s file is sent to the affected board office.
- A panel consists of 3 parole panel members
- 1st voting member reviews/votes case
- Case transferred to 2nd voting member – reviews/votes case
- 2 similar votes = final vote on case
- If the first two votes differ, the 3rd voting member of the panel reviews the case and breaks the tie
- There must be a majority of two votes for a vote to become final
Parole panel members must grant an interview to the victim upon request.
DISCRETIONARY MANDATORY SUPERVISION (DMS)
For offenses committed on or after September 1, 1996, a parole panel must approve an inmate’s release to mandatory supervision unless it determines that the inmate’s accrued good conduct time is not an accurate reflection of the inmate’s potential for rehabilitation and the inmate’s release would endanger the public. This is known as discretionary mandatory supervision (DMS). Most inmates have a DMS date that is different from their parole eligibility date. Some inmates are excluded from DMS. Inmates excluded from DMS are those serving a sentence for or previously convicted of offenses, often referred to as “3(g) offenses.” 3(g) refers to the subpart of the former code provision containing the list of excluded offenses now located in Article 42A.054(a) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Those offenses are: (1) first-degree criminal solicitation; (2) murder; (3) capital murder; (4) aggravated kidnapping; (5) trafficking of persons; (6) continuous trafficking of persons; (7) indecency with a child; (8) sexual assault; (9) aggravated sexual assault; (10) first-degree injury to a child or an elderly or disabled person; (11) aggravated robbery; (12) first-degree burglary of a habitation with intent to commit one of several felony sex crimes; (13) aggravated promotion of prostitution; (14) compelling prostitution; (15) sexual performance by a child; and (16) a violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act involving the use of a child or recidivism in a drug-free zone. DMS voting options include: 1) DMS, which means deny release to DMS, and setoff the inmate for review one year from the date of the panel decision; or 2) RMS, which means release to DMS, and the inmate will be scheduled for release on a minimum expiration or projected release date.
Before DMS, certain inmates were released to mandatory supervision, which was the automatic release of inmates to parole once good time plus time served equaled the total sentence without a parole panel vote under a law enacted by the 65th Texas Legislature in 1977. Mandatory supervision was created to ensure parole custody for all prisoners to prevent recidivism. However, many prisoners elected to bypass parole and were released from prison without guidance or any help to acclimate them back into society. As a result, mandatory supervision turned into an automatic open door out of TDCJ once eligible inmates reached an average of 48% of their total sentence and left the parole board with no discretion or decision-making power regarding inmates’ release. The Texas Legislature realized the danger of the “automatic open door” and amended statutes to restrict its use. In 1995, the 74th Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 1433, which served as a lever to close the “automatic open door” of mandatory supervision and brought about the oxymoron of “discretionary mandatory supervision.”
Factors Considered in the Voting of a Case
- Seriousness of the offense(s)
- Offender’s age
- Juvenile history
- Criminal history (prior probation/parole)
- Number of prison incarcerations
- Other arrests
- Institutional adjustment (Participation in TDCJ-CID proposed or specialized programs)
- Letters of support and/or protest