Parole Letter – October, 2012

There has not been any significant policy changes or legal decisions affecting the inmate population since my last letter was sent out in April 2012. What has happened is an explosion of rumors within the prison system. I thought it would be better to have a letter going out addressing these rumors and exposing them for what they are, then wait until January 2013 when the legislature will meet again.

 

RUMORS:

(1) 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.

(2) 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.

(3) 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.

(4) 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.

(5) 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.)

(6) 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.

(7) The last of the rumors circulating is 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.

PAROLE BOARD MEMBER CHANGES:

Parole Commissioner Paul Kiel who had previously been transferred to the San Antonio Parole Board has now been transferred back to the Palestine Parole Board.

Parole Commissioner Trenton Marshall has announced he will be resigning from the Huntsville Parole Board to go into private practice as an attorney. This will create a vacancy at the Huntsville Parole Board and I will attempt to notify the inmate population as to who will be appointed to take his place. It will be posted on my web page probably before my next letter goes out in January or February 2013.

***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.  I must be hired a long time before the inmate’s eligibility date (especially with the new policy changes made by the Parole Board this year) so I can do what needs to be done such as  help prepare an inmate to be a good candidate for release to parole, gather the needed information and prepare the written documentation to be submitted to the Board, and to argue in behalf of my client before the Board if granted an appearance.  All of this needs to be done so I can present this information to the Parole Board before the procedural hurdles and time-lines stop the evidence from being accepted by the Board. You should hire me before you go into to review.  

 

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 4 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.

Sincerely,

James Randall Smith

Attorney at Law