Rumors

 

2014

It is now silly season when it comes to rumors circulating in prison: (1) The rumor mill is insisting that since Ms. Freeman was indicted, all inmates voted by her can now have their cases brought up again by the Huntsville Parole Board. FALSE. Unless the inmate can prove he/she was denied parole because of an illegal action on the Board Member’s (Ms. Freeman) part and that illegal action brought about a negative Parole Board vote, there could be no granting of a Special Review and re©vote of the inmate’s request for Parole relief. (2) Because an inmate’s case was voted on by both Mr. Chavez, who resigned, and Ms. Freeman, who was indicted, the inmate will automatically be granted parole by the Parole Board since neither member is on the Huntsville Board. FALSE. (3) Should any inmate tell you the Texas Legislature has passed any new law, whether it helps the inmate population or hurts the inmate population, you should disregard whatever the inmate is telling you. As I have written on numerous occasions over the years, the Texas Legislature only convenes every two©years on odd numbered years. The Texas Legislature has not met since 2013 and therefore will not go into session until January 2015. Since the Legislature has not been in session since 2013, no new laws could have been passed.

A quick civic lesson may be called for. Simply because a bill has been submitted to committee it does not mean it will become law. The process is: each member of the Texas Legislature can submit a bill to the appropriate committee. For the bill to come out of committee, one-half of the committee members must agree to pass the bill on to the legislature. Once the bill comes out of committee, it then must pass both the House and the Senate by a majority of the members. Then it is sent to the Governor of the State of Texas who has 60-days in which to sign the bill or veto the bill. Until the Governor signs the bill, it does not become law. While I will be following the legislation during this session, there is no reason to raise anyone’s hopes until a bill becomes law. A bill is merely a proposed law and has no binding effect until signed by the governor of the state of Texas. Since there will be a new Governor, no one can predict what will be signed into law or not signed into law. As I pointed out previously, there has not been a statewide Democrat elected in approximately 20-years and most of the Republican nominees are very conservative. At this point, no one knows if the legislature or the governor will be tough on crime or interested in rehabilitation of prison inmates. Based upon the rhetoric of the various candidates for governorship and other offices on the Republican side, I do not anticipate any softening toward inmates or defendants in criminal cases.

 

2013

There is a rumor circulating about the unification of TDCJ-ID and the Parole Board. There was a bill introduced into the Legislature to unify these 2 separate divisions. Contrary to the rumor circulating through TDCJ, this legislation did not get out of committee so therefore it is not a law. No such unification occurred.

There was no bill proposed decreasing the mandatory requirement of a person convicted of a 3g offense or any offense in which a weapon was used serving less than 50% of their sentence before they would be eligible for parole.

There is another rumor circulating that the Legislature is attempting to pass a bill requiring anyone convicted of a 3g offense or any offense in which a weapon was used be required to serve 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. This is also not true.

While it is true that the Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility will close sometime after August 31, 2013, the rumor circulating that those inmates who are being held in those facilities will be released from prison because of overcrowding is not true. Jason Clark TDCJ spokesman in an interview stated offenders will be transferred to facilities with existing capacity in the coming months.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles continues to meet with officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement HB 2734 which passed in the last Texas Legislative Session. This Bill intends to have the Board require illegal criminal aliens incarcerated in Texas prisons to leave the United States if granted parole release when they are legally eligible for parole and when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles determines they should be granted parole and allowed to be released from custody. I have written about this on two previous occasions and still the rumors persist this is an automatic release for illegal aliens held in prison. This is not true. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a policy statement indicating inmates who are illegal aliens held in Texas prisons still must prove to the Parole Board they deserve to be released and the implementation of this law will be just an additional required condition of supervision for those offenders with ICE detainers in effect at the time of their release.

2012

There is a persistent rumor the Parole Board is releasing over 90% of the applicants for parole. I addressed this in my last letter in April 2012, but it won’t go away. This is not true! While the release rate for the year-to-date as of September 2012 statistics I received from the Parole Board recently reflects an drop in the overall release rate of about 2% points to34.95% from 36.84%, the Parole Board is still denying around 65% of parole applicants. This is the highest rate of release I have seen in my almost 25-years of representing inmates before the parole board. This drop in release rates may indicate this trend of high release rates may not continue. A June report by the Legislative Budget Board predicts that Texas prison population will trend downward until 2014 when it will start rising again and by early 2015 the report forecasts the number of state prisoners will again exceed capacity.

(It would be my recommendation for any inmate who can to do everything possible to be released on parole now while the rate is this high. If you sit around and hope to be released, you may discover you will be sitting in prison a long time when the release rate starts its inevitable downward turn. If you are receiving set-offs I strongly recommend you do something quickly or you will be caught in prison when this trend stops( or may be earlier) sometime in 2014 or 2015. You need to think ahead because a one-year set-off will put you into 2014 and a 2 year set-off will put you into 2015 at your next parole appearance, it then may become very difficult to try to convince the parole board to let you out of prison.)

There is a rumor circulating TDCJ will have to air-condition all of the TDCJ units by next summer because of a federal law suit filed by inmates. I have researched this matter and do not find any federal of state appellate opinion regarding this. TDCJ has attempted to improve the ventilation in some units because of the problems associated with the over-heating that occurred this summer, but there is no legal opinion requiring TDCJ to air condition prison units as of the date of this letter.

There is a persistent rumor circulating in prison by inmates who are not United State citizens, based on the misreading or misunderstanding of HB #2734. I had previously addressed this rumor back in January 2012, but it keeps coming back up in almost every Hispanic inmates letter I receive. The rumor is that if you are an inmate who is an illegal alien or permanent resident alien that will be deported, you will automatically be released. Not true. The legislation requires the Parole Board to place a special condition on any inmate who is not a United States Citizen and who has been granted parole and will be deported to his/her native country indicating he/she may not return to the United States while on parole. This law does not mean the Parole Board must grant parole to a non-citizen. The inmate still has to convince the Parole Board to grant him/her parole before the condition will be placed on the inmate’s certificate of release. In simple terms the only way to receive parole is through the Parole Board granting it.

I have received information another rumor has popped up about the Texas Legislature passing a law that would reduce the sentence of any inmate if he has completed an education program in TDCJ. Only a court can reduce a sentence. Neither the parole board nor TDCJ has the authority to reduce a sentence an inmate has received either from the judge or from a jury.

This rumor falls under the I cannot believe anyone would take this rumor seriously designation. I have received many letters asking if the Texas Legislature has passed a law allowing inmates to grow a mustache or beard, with the stipulation they must be neat and trim at all times. Does anyone really think the Texas Legislature has time to deal with the facial hair of inmates. Whether to allow inmates to have facial hair or long hair is a TDCJ policy decision. I would think there are much more important problems facing inmates than whether to grow facial hair.

There is a rumor the Legislature has met and changed the law on 3g offenses reducing the time from the required 50% of sentence to be served prior to being eligible for parole to 35% of the sentence required to be served prior to being eligible for parole. This is false. The Texas Legislature will not convene until January 2013 and any new laws will not go into effect until September 1, 2013. No law was passed in the 2010 Legislature. To try to reduce down the rumor mill about new laws passed by the Legislature, I believe it is important to understand the distinction between a law and a bill. Any member of the House or the Senate may propose a bill. The various committees must then review this bill, make any changes, and then vote whether to send the bill to the Legislature for a vote by a majority of the members of the committee. The bill then must pass both the Texas Senate and the Texas House by a majority vote of the members. Then the bill is sent to the governor of the state of Texas. The governor has 60 days from the end the of the 2013 Legislative Session which ends in June 2013 to either sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or not sign the bill which automatically kills the bill (called a pocket veto). A bill has no legal effect whatsoever. Unless a bill passes both houses of the Legislature and is signed by the governor it is nothing but a proposal. Therefore, disregard anyone telling you the Legislature has passed a law that will do something for the inmate population until after September 2013.

There is a persistent rumor that all inmates will be released upon serving 3/4 of their sentence. Inmates claim the IPO officers are telling them this has been decided by the Parole Board. I have checked with the Board and the Criminal Justice Committee and both have denied this rumor.

There is a persistent rumor circulating in prison by inmates who are not United State citizens, based on the misreading or misunderstanding of HB#2734. The rumor is that if you are an inmate who is an illegal alien, you will automatically be released.  Not true. The legislation requires the Parole Board to place a special condition on any inmate who is not a United States Citizen and who has been granted parole and will be deported to his/her native country indicating he/she may not return to the United States while on parole. This law does not mean the Parole Board must grant parole to a non-citizen.  The inmate still has to convince the Parole Board to grant him/her parole before the condition will be placed on the inmate’s certificate of release. In simple terms the only way to receive parole is through the Parole Board granting it. 

The next rumor circulating is…if an inmate refuses a plea offer and then goes to trial and gets more time he gets to go back and accept the plea offer. This is false! I believe this is a misreading of the two new United States Supreme Court opinions released March 21, 2012. In Lafler v. Cooper, prosecutors offered Cooper a deal of 51 to 85 months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Cooper turned down that and other offers, because his attorney told him he could not be found guilty of the attempted murder charge, because he had shot Mundy below the waist). Such a total mis-statement of the law was ineffective assistance of counsel. Missouri v. Frye (when defense attorney failed to convey the plea offer to his client and the offer expired it was ineffective assistance of counsel). You have to prove the attorney was ineffective and win a writ of habeas corpus or appeal before you can receive the prior offer.  It is not automatic just because you lost at trial.

There is a persistent rumor the Parole Board is releasing over 90% of the applicants for parole. This is not true! While the release rate is up, the March 2012 statistics I have received from the Parole Board reflects an overall release rate of 36.66%. The Board is still denying 64% of parole applicants.

There is a persistent rumor circulating in prison by inmates who are not United State citizens, based on the misreading or misunderstanding of HB#2734. The rumor is that if you are an inmate who is an illegal alien, you will automatically be released.  Not true. The legislation requires the Parole Board to place a special condition on any inmate who is not a United States Citizen and who has been granted parole and will be deported to his/her native country indicating he/she may not return to the United States while on parole. This law does not mean the Parole Board must grant parole to a non-citizen.  The inmate still has to convince the Parole Board to grant him/her parole before the condition will be placed on the inmate’s certificate of release. In simple terms the only way to receive parole is through the Parole Board granting it.

This is probably the strangest rumor I have ever heard. I’m sure it is a scam to take money out of inmates families pockets, so please beware! Supposedly, there is a company or companies that buy up outstanding fees and fines owed to courts of the counties of the state of Texas. The company then sells these debts to family members or loved ones of inmates and then notifies the Parole Board of the amount paid, and the Parole Board then grants the inmate parole because of the extreme budgetary problems facing the state of Texas and every county in the state of Texas. Surely, no one will fall for this ridiculous rumor!  Again, not true.

2011

There is a rumor circulating within TDCJ regarding inmate who are not American citizens and who have ICE holds placed upon them or who are permanent resident aliens and have green cards and also have ICE holds or detainers placed on them to be deported back to their country of origin will be automatically granted parole. Unfortunately, this is inaccurate and a misreading of bill that was passed by the Texas Legislature as HB# 2734. The wording in HB# 2734 says if the parole boardshould decide to grant an inmate parole and that inmate has a deportation order or ICE hold or detainer then the parole board must make it a condition of parole the inmate/parolee cannot return to the United States so long as he/she is on parole and if that should occur then the inmate/parolee can be revoked for violating a condition of his/her parole. As you can see this is not a get out of prison free card because the parole board still must decide if they want to release an inmate to parole and only upon making that decision of releasing an inmate to parole does the parole board then impose the condition of not returning to the United States.

There is a persistent rumor circulating:  a parolee who has had a revocation warrant (blue warrant) issued for a non-violent offender will be allowed to post a bond and remain out of custody until the revocation hearing. This is a proposed law before the Legislature, but as of the date of this newsletter it has not been passed or signed in to law. A similar bill was passed by the Legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by Governor Perry. There is no such law presently as of 2011!

Another rumor circulating is that many of the over 100 Texasprisons will be being closed down.  This is not true.  While the Texas prison system chief, Brad Livingston has been informed he must find an additional $45 million reduction in his budget he has stated “at this time” he is not considering closing some of Texas prison.  He has stated “It is possible that significant budget cuts will be made” and he added, “It would be virtually impossible to avoid significant staff reductions under significant reduction scenarios.”  Again no prisons have been designated to be closed at this time with the exception of the Central Unit in Sugarland Texas . This unit has been considered for closing in the land to be sold for many years. This unit is surrounded by very well-off neighborhoods and is in the city limits of Sugarland Texasand the Sugarland City Council has been lobbying for this unit to be shut down and the land sold off to developers for some time. This is the only unit that is set to be closed in 2011 or 2012 it is not being closed immediately. There will not be a release of inmates due to prison closings. The parole board is still the only way, short of serving out your complete sentence, of being released from prison. If you hear a rumor the legislature has passed some law regarding prisoners, parolees, or inmates you should be advised that the Texas legislature will not meet again until the year 2013. The Texaslegislature only meets every two years so there will be no new laws passed between now and 2013. As of September 2011 it appears all of the staff reduction will be in Windom School District Personnel rather than in guards.

The rumor circulating throughout the prison system about a change in the law on 3g or aggravated cases is not true. There is a persistent rumor being Texas legislature in 2011 changed the law requiring a person sentenced to an aggravated sentence or 3g sentence will no longer have to serve one half of their sentence instead they will only have to serve 30% of their sentence or 35% of their sentence, depending on which rumor the inmate heard and wants to believe. The effect is the legislature has not changed the law regarding parole eligibility for 3g or aggravated cases. An inmate convicted of a 3g or aggravated case or an inmate having  an affirmative finding of the use of a deadly weapon will have to serve one-half of their sentence day for day before they will be eligible for parole.

I have received phone calls in which family members have been informed by the inmate rumor mill the legislature passed a law in which inmates will be released upon serving one third of their sentence. There was no such bill ever introduced and as far as I can see there is no factual basis for this rumor. THERE WAS NEVER A BILL ADDRESSING THIS AT ALL. This rumor was just a rank rumor.

2010

  1. Rumor – President Obama passed a Bill to require TDCJ to return all Good Time taken from inmates due to disciplinary cases. This is not true! The President of the United States has no power to compel any change in State law. He can only recommend passage of a Bill to the United States Congress and the United States Senate and the House of Representatives would have to vote and pass the Bill. No such law was passed.
  2. Rumor – President Obama has passed a law requiring all inmates who have served 85% of their sentence must be released. No such law was passed. Again, this is not true.
  3. Rumor – Texas Governor Rick Parry is ordering the closing of 20 or more prison units in the State fo Texas due to the budget cuts he is making effective September 1, 2010. You need to understand the legislative process in Texas to understand how this could not be occurring. In Texas the legislature meets every 2-years, it last met in 2009, and set the budget for a two-year period. TDCJ is funded through the summer of 2011. There will be no closing of prisons in 2010. Presently, TDCJ is moving inmates held in private facilities back to TDCJ units. This moving of inmates held in private facilities back to TDCJ units may have been what sparked this rumor. Again, there will be no closing of 20 prisons or one prison in 2010.
  4. Rumor – TDCJ is closing down some of the older units as the prison population has decreased enough to allow this and the older units are no longer cost effective and the maintenance cost are too high. This is not true as I explained in rumor number 5 above.
  5. Rumor – A new law has been passed indicating if a parolee has a Motion to Revoke his parole filed, a hearing officer will no longer conduct the hearing and instead the revocation will be heard by a criminal court judge with all the rules of evidence and Constitutional safeguards attached. This rumor has no basis in fact or law.
  6. Rumor – There is a Bill pending in the United States Congress which will grant commutation to prisoners who are serving a life sentence for a crime committed when the inmate was a minor. I cannot locate such a Bill as of April 2010. Even if it existed, the United States Congress can only address Federal crimes not State crimes. This is not true.

2009

  1. Rumor – The Parole Board can only deny an inmate’s request for parole once (an example 2D-nature of crime) and once this reason has been used the Parole Board cannot deny an inmate again for the same reason. The theory being, to do so would be double jeopardy. Unfortunately, for the inmate this is not true. The Parole Board can continue to deny you for any reason and they can use the same reason repeatedly.
  2.  Rumor – I previously explained in the section dealing with Bills that were not passed and enacted into law, the rumor circulating throughout the prison system about a change in the law on 3g or aggravated cases is not true. The legislature has not changed the law regarding parole eligibility for 3g or aggravated cases. An inmate convicted of a 3g or aggravated case or having an affirmative finding of the use of a deadly weapon will have to serve one-half of their sentence day for day before they will be eligible for parole. No such law was passed.

2008

  1. Rumor – The Parole Board will release inmates to parole who have a non-violent case if they will enroll in the armed services. I have contacted the head of the Parole Board, Rissie Owens and inquired about this rumor. I was informed there is no such agreement between the military and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. I also contacted an Army recruiter who informed me the military has changed their requirements and they are accepting non-violent felons into military service.
  2. Rumor – When an inmate is reviewed for parole and the Parole Board denies the inmate for a particular reason, for example 2D, the Parole Board cannot at any subsequent review use the same reason again for denying the inmate parole. This is not true, the Parole Board can continue to use the same reason to deny the inmate for parole review after review . There is no double jeopardy for denying the inmate release to parole for the same reason every time the inmate comes up for review.
  3. Rumor- There is a rumor circulating that if an inmate is denied parole and his/her guideline score indicates he/she should have been granted parole then the inmate can write to Senator Whitmire’s office and Senator Whitmire will intervene and the inmate will be released. There is absolutely no basis of fact in this rumor. Senator Whitmire is not intervening in any parole board decisions and it is a waste of time to write to him and inform him of the parole board’s decision.

2007

The entire parole board will be fired in a new parole board appointed and this will increase the number of inmates released.

Fact: The seven parole board members are appointed by the governor for a six-year term. Only the Governor, who appointed the parole board members, may remove those members from the parole board. When a parole board member is appointed he/she is appointed for a six-year term, unless removed by the Governor. The remaining members of the parole board are Parole Commissioners who are state employees and are protected by the Civil Service Act and cannot be fired or removed unless they commit a felony or a crime of moral turpitude. It is my belief the commissioners will, over the years of their service, become the institutional memory and voice of the parole board, and may, through their experience and time served on the board, become more knowledgeable, and therefore have more influence than the appointed parole board member. This could occur because the members will only serve a six-year term, unless reappointed, and the Parole Commissioners will have served for many years and have more experience than the newly appointed Parole Board Members. Under the present system, the commissioners and the appointed parole board members votes are equal, when they are voting for parole or discretionary mandatory release. It is my belief, the parole commissioners will become much more influential the longer they serve on the parole board.

There is presently a rumor circulating that the Legislature is changing the law affecting 3g offenders. The present law requires the inmate serve one-half actual time before he/she is eligible for parole if he/she is convicted of a 3g offense. Supposedly, according to the rumor, the Legislature has passed a law rescinding the one-half requirement for any crime defined as a 3g offense making all inmates first parole appearance before the parole board possible after serving only one-fourth of their sentence. The first parole review, according to the rumor, will be eligible when the inmate has served one-fourth of his sentence and that one-fourth will be computed by adding the actual time the inmate has served plus any good time credits, and when the actual time served in the good time credits equal one-fourth of the sentence the inmate would be eligible for parole. FALSE. There is no such legislation proposed to date. I have reviewed all of the bills pending before the criminal justice committee, which is the committee all criminal laws must go through before they are approved for a floor vote, and there is no such law proposed or filed by any legislator.

Next rumor circulating: Because of the recent scathing critique of the parole board by the Sunset Commission, the entire parole board will be replaced and a new group of individuals will be appointed. FALSE. I have found nothing indicating there is any basis for this rumor. While the Sunset Commission’s critique of the parole board was harsh, there is no indication the Governor is contemplating removing any parole board members or commissioners. The Governor is only able to remove those parole board members he appointed. The members are appointed by the governor and they serve for a six-year term. There are seven parole board members. The parole board is made up of the seven parole board members and 11 commissioners. The commissioners are civil servants and may not be removed unless they commit a felony or a crime of moral turpitude. They do not have a term limit and they do not serve at the pleasure of the Governor. Because of the law allowing the Governor to remove only those parole board members he appoints, he could only request the resignation of the seven parole board members. He could not request the resignation of the remaining parole board commissioners.

There is presently a new rumor circulating that the Legislature is changing the law affecting 3g offenders. The present law requires the inmate serve one-half actual time before he/she is eligible for parole if he/she is convicted of a 3g offense. Supposedly, according to the rumor, the Legislature has passed a law requiring the parole board to compute the inmates work time when calculating when the inmate has reached one-half of his sentence. FALSE. There is no such legislation proposed to date. I have reviewed all of the bills pending before the Criminal Justice Committee, which is the committee all criminal laws must go through before they are approved for a floor vote, and there is no such lawproposed or filed by any legislator.