Parole Letter – January, 2014

RUMORS:  (1) There is a rumor circulating among inmates that there is an attorney who represents inmates before the Parole Board claiming she worked in my office and was trained by me in parole matters. There is no truth to this.  Please disregard any statement of this nature made by anyone.  The only attorney who has ever worked with me on parole matters is Greg Tsioros who presently offices with me. (See reference at end of this letter.)  (2) I have been addressing the next rumor for over two-years, but inmates keep writing to me telling me the Legislature has passed a bill reducing the mandatory ½  day-for-day time an inmate must serve on 3g offenses to – various percentages less than 50%.  This is not true.  No such law was or has ever been passed by the Texas Legislature.  I hope this is the last time I have to address this persistent rumor.  If you want to continue to believe in fairy tales you may do so, but remember, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, He who lives on hope, will die of starvation.  i.e. Individuals who take an active part in addressing their life will probably go on to better things, but those who do nothing except hope that something will happen out of the blue to change their circumstances will be disappointed.

NEW LAWS:  In my last letter I informed the prison population the Legislature had appropriated funds for two new Parole Commissioners and the funds necessary to set up a new Parole Board.  I confirmed this with Ms. Rissie Owens, the head of the Parole Board.  As of the date of this letter, the Governor has not appointed the two commissioners and therefore there has not been a new Board set up.  As soon as I find out about the appointments and any other information regarding this matter, I will place it on my web page at






Charles Shipman




Marsha Moberley




James LaFavers




Lynn Ruzicka




Fred Rangel




Troy Fox

42.5 %



Elvis Hightower




David Gutierrez




Tony Garcia




Pamela Freeman




Rissie Owens




Roman Chavez




James Hensarling




Michelle Skyrme




Paul Kiel



San Antonio

Anthony Ramirez



 San Antonio

Charles Speier



San Antonio

Juanita Gonzales






The methodology I used in calculating the total average was to take out the percentage for Rissie Owens because as head of the Parole Board she only voted on approximately 450 cases in the year to date versus most Parole Board Members who voted in excess of 2500 cases year to date. I believe the probability of any inmate of being voted on by Ms. Owens would be a statistical anomaly and the greater probability of a vote by the other members would be more probable.

OF INTEREST : The Federal Communications Commission voted 2 to 1 to reduce prison telephone rates which were far more expensive for prison inmates than for the general public. The lower rates are aimed at helping prisoners maintain contact with children, family and friends and lowering the probability that inmates will return to prison after release.  The FCC limited per-minute rates to 25 cents for long-distance collect calls, meaning that a 15-minute call cannot top $3.75.  Debit and prepaid calls were capped at 21 cents a minute or $3.15 for 15-minutes.  Extra fees and commissions to connect calls are banned.  The new rules go into effect immediately.  If you are paying higher rates, you should write to the following address and inform the FCC: Federal Communication Commission, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554.

I should entitle this paragraph When Pigs Fly.  In the last 6-years, at least 14-inmates died from heatstroke or hyperthermia in overheated Texas prisons where air-conditioning is scarce and temperatures can reach 130̊ in the summer.  The Texas Commission on Jail Standards requires all County jails to keep the temperature below 85̊, not necessarily a comfortable temperature, but a humane one, but the state prisons are exempt from that requirement.  Because of this, several inmates’ families have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the state of Texas and the union for the prison guards has supported this lawsuit. The union is also recommending their members take legal action against the state because of the intolerable heat in the prisons where they work.  As an aside, during the Texas summer heat, the state’s prison system finalized a bid to replace its aging swine production facility with 6 new climate controlled modular barns at a cost of $750,000, but no one saw fit to try to make the working and living conditions inside the prisons at least humane. I do not know when these lawsuits will go to trial, nor what the verdict will be, but it is interesting that guards and inmates are now on the same page as far as the sweltering conditions of prisons in the summer.

I am sure you have heard or read of the debacle at the Parole Board regarding support letters sent to the Austin Parole Board.  Any support letter sent to the Austin Parole Board was scanned and then the physical document destroyed.  The scanned documents were to be sent to the various Parole Boards for the Parole Board Members to review when making the decision on whether or not to release an inmate.  The scanned documents were sent, but not attached to the particular inmates electronic file and probable not read by the Board Member.  This was subsequently discovered and the State spent over $100,000.00 printing the electronic documents and then sending the Board Members the physical copy.  I predicted this when the electronic filing was first was introduced and made the appropriate adjustments so none of my clients cases were impacted.  I attempted to explain to the various members this would occur, but it fell on deaf ears and nothing was done.  I have also told the Board Members they could reduce the number of telephone calls to the Board Offices if they would simply add the new parole eligibility date to the TDCJ Offender web-page after denying an inmate parole.  I believe this suggestion may be addressed in the near future.

Myself and two other individuals wrote a book, and believe it or not, it was published!  As an attorney representing inmates before the Parole Board and citizens accused in criminal courts across the state of Texas, and federal courts in the United States, I have always had to analyze and interpret  statistics, read the law, policy changes and decisions from appellate courts and tried to predict the future policy or law that might occur to try to protect my clients’ interest.  In our book, my fellow co-authors and I, one who is also an attorney and the other a certified economic developer, have combined our talents to predict what will probably be confronting everyone, including inmates, in the short-term and mid-term  future.  As far as the penal system, jobs will be disappearing because of the coming advent of robotics displacing factory workers and driverless cars replacing truck drivers and taxi-drivers in the very near future.  If you are interested in purchasing this book, please do not write me to request a copy as I cannot send it to you in prison, but your family can order it and have it mailed to you directly from Barnes & Nobel or


Greg Tsioros is a criminal defense attorney who handles all forms of criminal defense cases. 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 highly 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 I CONTINUE TO HAVE TO REFUSE CASES BECAUSE THE FAMILY OR LOVE ONES CALL AFTER THE INMATE HAS GONE INTO REVIEW:***  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 long before your file goes into to review.  Please remember, the Parole Board can receive your file at least 60-days prior to your eligibility date and upon receiving the file, vote on your application for parole.  Any parole package must be on file prior to the vote.  I do not file 3-page letters asking for parole with an attached support letter and employment letter and call it a parole package.  Instead, I investigate, retrieve documentation, review the information, prepare a well thought out parole package that can run 30-40 pages and also argue to the First Voting Member the evidence and information I have discovered.  All of this takes time!! 

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. If you do I will not return the documents unless you pay for the return postage.


James Randall Smith

Attorney at Law