Parole Letter – October, 2016

This letter is my continued attempt to keep the inmate population informed as to the laws affecting inmates in the prison system in the state of Texas.

As you can see, I have 2 attorneys, Greg Tsioros and Johnny Papantonakis in my office to help with my clients needs. Johnny, is fluent in Spanish both spoken and written, and can assist inmates and their families who only speak Spanish. For inmates whose families have financial limitations, both Johnny’s and Greg’s fees are generally less than mine.

PAROLE BOARD NEWS:INFORMATION:

The Amarillo Parole Board has a new Parole Commissioner, Mr. Raymond Gonzales along with his assistant Sandra Owen. His background consists of over 38-years experience in Criminal Justice inclusive of 20-years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Parole Division, with positions from Parole Officer to Assistant Regional Supervisor; additionally, he has worked in the Correctional Institutional Division as an Assistant Warden. He also worked 8-years as a Juvenile Halfway House Superintendent for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. He has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University.

Denial of Parole Reasons: The Parole Board has now implemented the new reasons for denial of parole. I have placed this information on my web page: texasparole.com where your family or loved ones may access this information, print it out and send it to you. (I do not have sufficient space in my newsletter to include this information.)

PRISON POLICY:

There has been a new prison policy change for offenders who were convicted of one of the sex convictions which do not afford parole such as: Continuing Sexual Assault of a Child and Super Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. These crimes have flat-time sentences of 25-years or more with no parole allowed. Previously an inmate convicted of one of these offenses could reach the rank of G-2, but no more. The highest rank is now G-3. This greatly affects these offenders because this limits them on educational courses, employment, and living conditions in prison. Once an offender is within 5- years of his/her release date without any problems, the inmate can be moved up to a G-2 security level.

JESSICA LAW: Inmates convicted under Jessica Law who receive a life-sentence can only ever receive a G-3 custody level. All other inmates convicted under Jessica Law will not be eligible for a custody less restrictive than G-3 until 5-years before their discharge date.

Inmates convicted of Jessica Law with stacked sentences equaling 50 or more years will have to be monitored by the Classification Department as the sentences are served out and the G-3 custody level will change as the “clock” starts over due to a new sentence starting. Offenders will be eligible for G-3 status either 5 or 10 years from their TDCJ receive date, depending upon whether or not any of the offenses were Aggravated or not.

PRISON NEWS:

For inmates who are convicted of DWI(s), I need to warn you of what is occurring. I am seeing more inmates entering into the prison system with 25-years to life sentences for multiple DWI convictions. Presently, Montgomery County leads the state of Texas in sentencing defendants with multiple DWI convictions for life sentences. TDCJ’s internal statistics indicate 1 of every 20 people in the Texas prison system are multiple offenders for DWI. There are approximately 6600 inmates who fit this description. Should this trend continue, I have concerns it will effect how the Parole Board views the release of inmates charged with DWI’s. In the not so distant past, I recall how difficult it was to convince a Parole Board Member to release an inmate charged with DWI. It’s not going to get any easier.

Grad Program / Segregation Diversion Program: The GRAD program (Gang Renouncement and Disassociation) has been in effect for some time. The prison system recently introduced the Segregation Diversion Program, which allows gang members returning to prison a chance to renounce their membership and start the reeducation program upon reentry into the prison system instead of waiting approximately 18-months to 2-years to be accepted into the GRAD program and probably being placed in administrative segregation. According to the statistics released by TDCJ, there were approximately 6620 gang members in 2006 and there are approximately 3070 gang members in 2015 who are in administrative segregation.

Budget Cuts: Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials warn the Texas Legislature a cut in their proposed budget by $214 million could force the layoff of up to 1200 guards and reduce inmate services. They also testified they may have to consider closing additional prisons to meet the proposed budget cuts. The agency’s governing board have already approved the shutdown of the 450 bed South Texas Intermediate Sanctions Facility as a way to help make up a 4% budget reduction mandated by the State Legislature. Brian Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said if the legislative leaders cannot be convinced to exempt TDCJ from the mandate to cut budgets, then layoffs of guards, along with reduction in convict healthcare, meals, as well as other programs may be necessary.

Class Action: In a ruling highly critical of how Texas Prisons treat inmates, a federal judge in Houston ordered Wallace Pack Unit facility to find an immediate alternative to arsenic-laden drinking water. This unit holds mostly elderly and sick inmates and the judge ordered the facility to replace its water supply within 15-days. The state plans to appeal this ruling. This is an offshoot of the class action filed by the inmates as well as the guards. Judge Ellison is the Federal Judge where the class action lawsuit has been filed. This ruling may have indicated how Judge Ellison may be leaning in this lawsuit. Please remember, this case has not yet gone to trial and no matter who wins or loses, this case will eventually be appealed to the United States Supreme Court and it may take 3 or 4 years before a final decision is reached.

Current Release Rate: As of September 2016 the overall release rate for parole is 36.39%.

RUMORS:

Once again, the rumor-mongers of TDCJ are waging their campaign that the Legislature has changed a law. Once again, I am informing the inmate population: The Texas Legislature does not meet until January 2017, so therefore, any rumor indicating the Legislature has changed a law is FALSE.

(1) There has been no change in the law affecting 3g offenders. 3g offenders still must serve one-half of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. Should you hear a rumor otherwise indicating there has been a reduction in the one-half rule, know it is FALSE. In fact when the Legislature meets, they keep adding new crimes requiring inmates to serve a minimum of one-half of their sentence. As previously indicated in this newsletter, the Legislature is now creating crimes where NO parole will be available and inmates will have to serve every day of their sentence.

(2) For those rumor-mongers who are getting ready to start the rumor that TDCJ will be releasing inmates because of budget shortfalls, I warn you this is FALSE. It is not going to occur.

(3) There is a rumor circulating that TDCJ will now give 2-days credit for every one-day served in prison toward the reduction of an inmate’s sentence (sometimes the rumor says this is because of budget constraints and sometimes the rumor says this is a new law passed by the Texas Legislature). Where this rumor started from I have no idea! It is made up of nothing but FALSE statements. In Texas an inmate can be made to serve the entirety of his or her sentence. Only the Parole Board has the ability to release an inmate earlier than the completion of the entire sentence.

***MY ATTORNEY REPRESENTATION & WHY I MUST BE HIRED A LONG TIME BEFORE THE ELIGIBILITY DATE:*** Every inmate is eventually going to be reviewed by the Board. If you want to hire me, I must have time to perform my job. You need to hire me before your file is in review. Under Board rules the Parole Board can and often does receive an inmate’s file 60-days prior to the Parole Eligibility date (Parole Eligibility date is not your hearing date, it is the date you become eligible for parole review) and upon receiving the file, the parole panel can vote the inmate’s case. A parole package needs to be submitted prior to that date. I do not prepare a three-page form letter (taking the last client’s name out and inserting a new client’s name in as some “Parole Attorneys” do). I need time to investigate, review the evidence gathered, evaluate that evidence and prepare a parole package which can be as much as 30 to 40 pages. Then, I must request an Attorney Appearance date and prepare for the presentation of my arguments to the Parole Member. Therefore, waiting to hire me a only a few months prior to the eligibility date is not a sufficient time frame for me to do the job needed to convince the Board to release you to parole.

If you believe a 3-page form letter will change the Parole Board’s mind about who you are and what you have become, then you are sadly mistaken. If you are released after such a form letter is filed, you were more than likely going to be released anyway. You need to get realistic. If you are charged with a serious crime such as any type of assault, murder, manslaughter then you should expect to be protested by the victim, victim’s family, or the District Attorney’s Office. I am seeing more and more victims and families hiring attorneys to go before the Board to protest an inmate’s release. This is especially true in theft cases and intoxicated manslaughter cases. Multiple DWI’s are being protested by the District Attorney’s Office. You will need a very strong presentation and Parole Package and a 3-page form will not do much persuading.

TIME PAYMENT PLAN: If you decide to hire me and do so well in advance of your eligibility date, I can design a time payment plan for your family or loved ones, but I must be paid in full before I submit the parole package or request an appearance before the Parole Board, which is normally submitted 3-months prior to the parole review date. The time payment plan has been very helpful to many of my clients who have limited financial resources and thereby allowed them to hire me without causing them financial distress because they have hired me many months or even years in advance. If you wait until the last minute, the entire fee is going to be due immediately.

 

CREDIT CARDS: We now accept credit cards.

 

Please do not send any of your documentation to me prior to retaining me, it will be destroyed.