Parole Letter – July, 2013

While the Texas Legislature is in special session it is no longer dealing with any laws affecting criminal justice or the prison system. I will be addressing those new laws that may affect the inmate population, rumors that are circulating through TDCJ and an updated statistical analysis of individual Parole Board Members voting records. Because of the expenses involved in publishing this letter, I do not send it out on a monthly or even a quarterly basis. If you are interested in knowing what is occurring inside the Parole Board, TDCJ, inmate  rumors, new case law, or other information impacting the inmate population on a current basis, I would advise you to have your family or loved ones go to my web page www. texasparole.com and print out the information contained there and send it to you.

RUMORS:  (1)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. (2)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. (3)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. (4)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.

 

NEW LAWS:  Hidden deep within the Texas budget is a very interesting item. The budget contains money to hire 2 new Parole Board Commissioners. Upon discovering this information, I contacted the Huntsville Parole Board as well as the Palestine Parole Board and confirmed there will be a new Parole Board created and it will have units transferred under its jurisdiction. I then had a conversation with the head of the Parole Board, Ms. Owens and she confirmed the Parole Board will be headed up by her and probably be located in Austin. At this time neither Ms. Owens nor I know who will be the new Parole Board Commissioners appointed by the Governor and what units will be transferred under this new Parole Board. As soon as I find out this information I will place it on my web page www.texasparole.com.

 

HB 1302 deals with anyone who has or will be convicted of certain sexual offenses. If an inmate is convicted of a sexual offense he/she will not be able to be employed at an amusement park, driving a taxi cab, a bus, or working inside a residence. This bill goes on to impose a life sentence without parole should an individual be convicted previously of aggravated sexual assault as defined under Texas Penal Code 22.021 and redefines sexually violent offense to include continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children, a person 17-years of age or older against a child younger than 13-years of age, sex-trafficking of a child, indecency with a child, sexual assault, sexual performance by a child, aggravated kidnapping if the defendant committed the offense with intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually, burglary if the defendant intended to commit a sexual offense. This law  goes on to impose a duty on TDCJ, local law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, to notify the victim of any crime that the individual is coming up for parole. This bill goes into effect September 1, 2013.

 

HB 431 deals with injury to a child cases. Once denied for parole, a set-off on these offenses can run from 1 to 5 years. If the injury to a child case involves sexual activity, this can result in a notice to appear for a Coleman Hearing. If the inmate is found to qualify after a Coleman Hearing, that client can be placed on sex-offender conditions. A previous conviction for injury to a child would result in the loss of mandatory supervision eligibility. This law is in effect now!

 

SB 549 requires in a trial of a felony case in which punishment is to be assessed by a jury rather than a judge, be explained (sets out the exact language of the charge to the jury) the existence of parole law and good conduct time and the jury can take into consideration the existence of parole laws and good conduct time in assessing punishment. It also requires the court to explain the law of 3g offenses so the jury understands the defendant could and would have to serve one-half of whatever time is assessed before eligible for parole. This law goes into effect September 1, 2013.

 

SB 391 a defendant’s obligation to pay a fine or court costs as ordered by a judge exist independently of any requirement to pay the fine or court cost as a condition of the defendant’s community supervision. A defendant remains obligated to pay any unpaid fine or court cost after the expiration of the defendant’s community supervision. This law goes into effect September 1, 2013.

 

SB 1003 requires the creation of the Adult and Juvenile Administrative Segregation Task Force. The duty of this Task Force is to prepare and conduct a comprehensive review of administrative segregation and seclusion policies and practices and facilities in the state; develop methods to reduce the number of inmates housed in administrative segregation, provide inmates housed in administrative segregation increased access to program services and mental health treatment and make comprehensive policy recommendations. The report shall be submitted no later than December 1, 2014. Before the rumors start this does not mean any changes will be made regarding inmates in administrative segregation in the near future. The  report is not required to be completed and submitted to the Legislature until December 2014, so I do not see this study being utilized until the 2015 legislative session which begins in January 2015.

 

HB 799 allows the Windham School District to develop educational programs, assess job markets in this state and allows them to augment and expand the vocational training program developed as necessary to provide relevant and marketable skills to inmates. This goes into effect September 1, 2013. This law should help inmates leave prison with updated job skills.

 

HB 899 should be called the victim’s Bill of Rights Law. The victim, guardians of victims, close relatives of deceased victims have certain rights under the criminal justice system. They must be notified of any continuances, why there is such a continuance, what is the reason for the granting of such a continuance, the magistrate should take into consideration the safety of the victim or his family in fixing the amount of bail for the accused, the right to provide pertinent information to any probation department conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim either by testimony, written statement or any other manner prior to the sentencing of the defendant the right to participate in the parole process and to be notified of any defendants release. This law goes into effect September 1, 2013. This law gives victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system as well as in the parole system.

 

HB 577 allows an attorney employed by a public defenders office to be appointed for writs of habeas corpus filed under Article 11.071. This takes affect September 1, 2013.

 

HB 220 allows for consecutive sentencing for offenses involving injury to a child, an elderly individual, or a disabled individual arising out of the same criminal episode.

 

PAROLE DECISIONS BY BOARD MEMBERS AND COMMISSIONERS IN 2012

PAROLE BOARD                        BOARD MEMBER           APPROVAL RATE           DENIAL RATE

Gatesville

Troy Fox

45.7 %

54.3 %

            Huntsville

Pamela Freeman

36.9%

63.1%

            Huntsville

Tony Garcia

34.1%

65.9%

San Antonio

Juanita Gonzales

44.5%

55.5%

            Gatesville

David Gutierrez

48.1%

51.9%

Palestine

James Hensarling

36.2%

63.8%

 Gatesville

 Elvis Hightower

 43.3%

 56.7%

 Palestine

 Paul Kiel

39.6%

 60.4%

 Amarillo

 James LaFavers

39.3%

 60.7%

Amarillo

Marsha Moberley

 34.4%

 65.6%

 Huntsville

 Rissie Owens

 94.3%

5.7%

 Angleton

 Lynn Ruzicka

 39.0%

 61.0%

Amarillo

Charles Shipman

 27.2%

 72.8%

 Palestine

Michelle Skyrme

 37.5%

 62.5%

 San Antonio

Charles Speier

 38.1%

 61.9%

AVERAGE TOTAL

 

             39.6%

             60.4%

 

I did not include the 2 Parole Board Members and 3 Parole Board Commissioners who left the Parole Board during 2012 in this chart. The new Parole Board Members and Commissioners and their respective Parole Boards are: Roman Chavez-Huntsville Parole Board, Cynthia Tauss-Angleton Parole Board and Anthony Ramirez-San Antonio Parole Board. The April 2013 overall approval rate is 33.12% and the disapproval rate is 66.88%.

 

NEW ATTORNEYS IN THE OFFICE:

Greg Tsioros is a criminal defense attorney who handles all forms of criminal defense. Prior to being a defense attorney he worked for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney. While working as a prosecutor he handled all forms of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. He has been voted as one of Houston Magazine’s top lawyers in 2011 and 2012 as well as a 2012 Texas Rising Star for Texas Super Lawyers.

 

Johnny P. Papantonakis is a criminal defense attorney who handles cases in both federal and state courts and is fluent in Spanish .   For the past 12-years, he has been providing his clients with exceptional attention to detail and receiving positive results.  He can easily be reached and always makes time for his clients.  He realizes there is no substitute for their  freedom. He has been voted one of Houston Magazine’s Top Lawyers in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013, as well as Top Lawyer for the People in 2009.

 

Hector J. Lopez is a well accomplished immigration attorney with over 10-years of experience in the United States.  Mr. Lopez handles all areas of immigration ranging from business and family immigration to removal defense of aliens before the Immigration Court.  Mr. Lopez has special expertise in helping businesses secure permanent resident status of their foreign employees.  He has successfully processed hundreds of labor certification cases for employers; as well as green cards for professionals holding advanced degrees requesting national interest waiver and entrepreneurs willing to invest in the United States. Mr. Lopez has been selected as Houston’s Top Lawyer 2013 for Immigration & Nationality Law by the H-Texas Magazine.  He also received the Client’s Choice Award and the Top Contributor Award in 2012 and 2013.  He is a frequent speaker at public engagements and a writer with a local newspaper.

 

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 inmates eligibility date 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