Seth Topek
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Criminal Defense Attorney: Defending the Rights of the Accused and the Incarcerated

            Every inmate eligible for parole in Texas will be interviewed by a representative of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.  This statement often causes a great deal of confusion to families.  They believe that as a result of this interview a decision is about to be made or that some type of hearing is going to be had.  This impression is sometimes compounded by remarks made by the interviewer.  As experienced Texas parole lawyers we would like to clarify this confusing aspect of the process.  The interview is not a hearing and the interviewer has no say in determining if someone is granted parole.

            In Texas the people who vote are the members and commissioners of the Texas Parole Board.  These are the three people at each of the six parole offices.  They are the only people who vote on whether a person is granted parole or denied.  These eighteen board members rarely interview inmates.  The people who perform the interview at the Texas prison unit are Institutional Parole Officers.  They work for the parole board but do not have a say in whether an inmate is granted parole.  Their role in the parole process is to gather information about the offender and one of their means of getting this information is through the interview.  During this interview they ask questions inquiring into the offenders past as well as their plans for the future.  They discuss occupational history, education history, criminal history, psychological history, behavior and accomplishments during their incarceration, future living arrangements and other plans if they are granted parole.  This information is all typed up and is part of the information given to the parole board member who does get to vote.

            The nature of the questions and sometimes the responses of the interviewer sometimes make offenders feel there is more at stake during that interview than there really is.  The IPO often fails to tell the offender they do not have a say in whether or not parole is granted and many clients have told us the IPO told them they weren’t going to get paroled.  In our opinion this is unprofessional because at best they are making an educated guess and as we tell our clients when they want to know if they will be granted parole the only people who know that answer are the ones who get a vote.  In fact, a part of our job is clarifying or explaining aspects of our client’s life that we feel are misrepresented in the case summary and we often help our clients obtain parole when the IPO told them they would not be paroled.

            Attorneys are not present during the IPO interviews.  In spite of the fact that the person performing the interview does not vote the interview is an important part of the parole process and we encourage making a good impression.  If we are hired far enough in advance we can help prepare the offender for their interview.  Some of the pointers we give include taking responsibility and being honest about their past without making excuses or blaming others.  The offender should talk about the changes they have made and how this has affected their outlook and their plans for the future.  All of this and more is discussed during our meetings with clients in TDCJ.  Please contact us if someone you know is scheduled for an interview with parole in prison we can help guide you and the offender through the process.

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