In Texas, the parole system plays a crucial role in managing the sentences of offenders. This system allows some prisoners to finish their sentences outside of prison under strict conditions. Understanding how parole works is key if you or someone you know is facing this process. 

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Description automatically generatedWhat is Parole?

Parole is the release of an offender from prison, decided by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, to serve the rest of their sentence in the community under supervision. It's important to know that getting parole is a privilege, not a right, which means it's not guaranteed. The Board's decision is influenced by several factors, including the offender's behavior in prison and the nature of their crime.

What is Mandatory Supervision?

Mandatory supervision is a type of release from prison set by law. It occurs when the time you have actually served, plus the time earned for good behavior, equals the total sentence handed down by the court. However, not everyone is eligible for this. If you were convicted of certain serious crimes, or if your crime was committed after a specific date, you might not qualify for mandatory supervision. The Board of Pardons and Paroles also has the power to deny mandatory release based on individual cases. This decision takes into account both your behavior while incarcerated and the circumstances of your original offense.

Who is Eligible for Parole in Texas?

When you are serving time in Texas, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) figures out when you might be eligible for parole. This doesn't include everyone—especially not those on death row or others under specific exceptions. The percentage of your sentence that you need to serve before you can be considered for parole depends on the crime you were convicted for, and this is set by law. Also, if you behave well in prison, participating in work and self-improvement programs, you might earn good conduct time. This can help bring forward your parole eligibility date.

Parole and Mandatory Release

Both parole and mandatory release mean you would finish your sentence under supervision outside of prison. However, there are key differences in how you qualify for each. For parole, the decision to release you early is made by the Board of Pardons and Paroles based on various factors, including your behavior and the nature of your crime. Mandatory release, on the other hand, is automatic when your time served plus your good conduct time equals your full sentence, but only if your crime isn’t on the list of more severe crimes set by law. Both types of release come with conditions you must follow, and breaking these can result in severe consequences, including possibly being sent back to prison.

Parole Review Periods and Multi-Year Reviews

Once you are eligible for parole, you don’t just get one shot. Typically, you get a chance every year to be considered for release unless you were convicted of serious offenses involving injury to children, elderly, or disabled individuals, or certain other crimes. In those cases, the board might not look at your case again for up to ten years. This is called a multi-year review. These extended review periods are for those considered to have a higher risk of reoffending or those who have committed particularly violent acts.

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Parole Review Process

The process of reviewing your parole starts about six months before your first eligibility date and four months before any subsequent dates. Initially, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) points out which offender files need review. People like trial officials, victims, and their families then receive a notice about the upcoming review.

At this stage, an Institutional Parole Officer (IPO) meets with you to discuss your case and write a summary. This summary helps the Parole Panel understand your situation better. The IPO sends your file to the board office, where the panel members will review it.

The panel has three members, and they vote to make a decision about your parole. They vote one at a time. If the first two members agree, their decision stands. If they disagree, the third member votes to break the tie. Sometimes, a panel member may want to talk to you directly, and they must talk to any victims who ask for a meeting. After they decide, you get a letter telling you the result. If they say no, they’ll also tell you when they’ll look at your case again. If they say yes, they might set some special rules you need to follow.

Parole Panel Voting Options and Decisions

When it’s time to decide if you can be released on parole, the panel doesn’t just say yes or no. They have several choices. For example, they might agree to release you when you’re first eligible (FI-1), or they might set a future date for your release (FI-2). They could also decide to move you to a special program in prison to help you improve. If you finish the program successfully, you can then be released to parole on a planned date. These programs might focus on skills for living a law-abiding life or on treating specific issues like drug abuse or anger management.

Other decisions might include delaying your next review for several years, especially if you’re not yet ready to be released safely. Sometimes, they deny parole and don’t schedule another review until much later, depending on your situation and legal requirements.

All these options let the panel tailor their decision to fit your case, aiming to balance your chance for improvement with the need to keep the public safe.

Parole Panel Considers Certain Factors When Voting

When the Parole Panel in Texas reviews your case, they look at several key points to decide if you're ready to return to the community under parole. They take a serious look at the nature of the crime you were involved in. If it was violent, showed a disregard for others' safety, or targeted vulnerable individuals, this could weigh against you. They also consider any letters from people who support or oppose your release. These opinions can impact their decision significantly.

Your past behaviors play a huge role as well. The panel looks at your criminal history, whether you have been to prison before, and your age. How you behave in prison matters too — participation in programs like work or therapy shows you're making an effort to change. If you've been on probation or parole before, they want to see that you followed the rules and didn't end up back in prison.

They also check if there was any drug or alcohol use involved in your offenses. If substance use was a big part of your past crimes, they need to see that you've addressed this problem before considering you for parole.

Contact Our Parole Lawyers in Austin, TX

Navigating parole in Texas can be challenging and confusing. If you or someone you know is hoping to secure parole, it’s important to have someone by your side who understands the system. Clients trust Cofer & Connelly, PLLC for criminal defense due to our team's century of combined legal expertise, extensive experience with over 25,000 criminal and family law cases, and significant trial experience with over 300 jury trials, all rooted deeply in Texas legal traditions.

At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our parole attorneys can analyze your case, advise you on the best actions to take, and represent you in front of the parole board to increase your chances of a favorable decision. We're here to provide expert guidance and strong advocacy to help you through every step of the parole process. Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC by calling (512) 991-0576 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a parole attorney. We’re ready to help you take the next step towards freedom.

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