How does the Texas Parole Board make a decision? How much discretion do they have?
As Texas Parole lawyers we are often asked if there is a formula or a definitive way to examine factors of a case to determine if an offender will be paroled. Unfortunately, there is not. Although the parole board does use a set of parole guidelines in order to obtain a score for an offender that speaks to the risk level in a given case that number does not necessarily mean a vote will go one way or the other. The risk assessment tools are helpful in getting a sense or the general outlook of what the board is likely to do.
This is clarified in the Texas Administrative Code Title 37 Public Safety and Corrections Chapter 145 Rule 145.3. It gives some insight into the nature of the parole board’s decision making and the amount of latitude the board is given when making a decision. The rule basically states that candidates for parole are evaluated on an individual basis. It states there are “no mandatory rules or guidelines that must be followed in every case because each offender is unique.” The rule goes on to say that the board has a duty to make release decisions, which are in the best interest of society and are to use the parole guidelines as a tool to aid in their discretionary process.
This policy gives the board a great deal of discretion. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to appeal a decision of the parole board. The stress on the discretionary nature of their decisions means from a legal perspective there is little to point to in order to show that their decision violated a law or rule. This wide discretion can also be seen when looking at the reasons they give for denying parole, which are often vague and not very informative to families wondering what went wrong. It can be frustrating because the decision making process is even less clear than in court where you can at least learn the law and understand things like reasonable doubt.
While that can be frustrating, it should also be noted that the discretionary nature of this process can work to an offender’s advantage. The focus on the need to evaluate a case on an individual basis means that if the voters take their job seriously, and most do, they will listen when we present them with information and it means that even on serious cases if we do a thorough job and present the board with a viable parole plan, proof regarding the changes the offender has undergone during their incarceration, information about their support system and other relevant information it is possible to obtain a favorable vote. We understand that most families find the lack of clear guidance on what will get the parole board to vote a certain way very frustrating. If you have questions about the parole process please call us on our toll free number 888-661-5030 or fill out an online contact form. Our office is in Houston but our parole practice takes us to units across the state and we are able to represent offenders with families in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, McAllen and numerous other cities.