Victims have the right to be notified of your loved one’s parole eligibility and submit victim impact statements. This post explains how notification occurs and how the victims can impact the parole process.
Victim Impact Statements
For the initial trial and subsequent parole reviews, victims can submit an impact statement. These statements express their thoughts on the offense, the offender, and the effect of the offense on the victim. However, certain individuals can submit a statement in place of the victim or in addition to the victim’s impact statement. The guardian (if the victim has a guardian), a close relative (if the victim has died), or another victim representative can also submit victim statements. Additionally, victims or their representatives can give statements in writing or orally to the parole panel.
Defining Key Terms
The terms “close relative of a deceased victim” and “guardian of the victim” are defined as follows in Texas Government Code 508.117.
“Close relative of a deceased victim” means a person who was
- The spouse of the victim at the time of the victim’s death;
- A parent of the deceased victim;
- An adult brother, sister, or child of the deceased victim; or
- The nearest relative of the deceased victim by consanguinity, if the persons described above are deceased or are incapable due to physical or mental illness or infirmity.
“Guardian of the victim” means a person who is the legal guardian of a victim, whether or not the legal relationship between the guardian and the victim exists because of the age of the victim or the physical or mental incompetency of the victim.
TDCJ notifies trial officials (the district judge, sheriff, and prosecuting attorney) as well as relevant police chiefs of your loved one’s parole proceedings. Further, two circumstances permit identified victims to receive notifications about your loved one’s case. First, those who submitted victim impact statements at the time of your loved one’s trial will receive notifications. Second, if the identified victim(s) failed to submit a victim impact statement, they can request notification through the Victim Services Division.
Then, TDCJ will notify these parties in advance when your loved one’s case is approaching parole review. Notification will go to the victim or their representative. Following receipt of notice, individuals can submit their comments regarding your loved one’s release. The parole panel receives these comments in your loved one’s file and will consider them along with the static and dynamic factors when voting on your loved one’s parole case.
After the Board votes on your loved one’s parole case, TDCJ informs approved victims of the case outcome, in accordance with the notification eligibility discussed above. Notification is only provided to individuals who previously submitted a victim impact statement or registered for notification.
Confidentiality of Victim Statements
Due to confidentiality protections afforded victims, we cannot obtain any information regarding victim impact statements. According to Texas Government Code 508.313, victim impact statements are confidential and under restricted access. TDCJ will only release victim impact statements to the following parties upon request.
- The governor;
- A member of the board or a parole commissioner;
- The Criminal Justice Policy Council performing duties of the council under Section 413.017; or
- An eligible entity requesting information for law enforcement, prosecutorial, correctional, clemency, or treatment purposes.
If you have additional questions about victim impact statements or the parole review process, please contact us. While victim statements are confidential and out of your control, we can help ensure that the Board hears your loved one’s story and that we assess, anticipate, and address objections of potential victim impact statements in our plan of parole.
Additional Source: Texas Government Code 508.153