If you’ve ever spent time behind bars, then you already know just how valuable freedom really is. Even with conditions like probation or rehabilitation programs, getting to live on the outside is a much better alternative than staring at your cell wall all day.
Many offenders have an opportunity at freedom during parole hearings, yet few people are well-versed in understanding the parole process in Texas. When will you be eligible, what factors does the board consider, and how does the voting process go? Get all your parole questions answered below.
When Will I Be Eligible for Parole?
Are you or a loved one awaiting your parole hearing? Are you unsure if you’re even eligible for parole? Here are a few of the rules of parole that will help you determine if your parole hearing date is coming up:
- Inmates on death row are not eligible for parole.
- Individuals must serve a percentage of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
- The waiting period mentioned above depends on the crime.
- If you were convicted of a violent crime or used a deadly weapon, then you’ll have to serve at least half of your sentence before being eligible for parole.
- If you were convicted of a non-violent felony, then you’ll have to serve 25 percent of your sentence.
- It’s possible to only serve 12.5% of your sentence if your conviction was drug-related.
- You’ll receive credit for time served if you were held in custody.
Remember, parole is discretionary and not a guaranteed opportunity for inmates.
Understanding the Parole Process: Factors the Board Considers
Once you’re up for parole, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will begin putting together a file that describes your specific crime and circumstances. The parole board’s first impression of you comes from your file, which will contain information like victim statements, prison violations, and any data collected from interviews at facilities.
Each file is reviewed thoroughly by parole board members, but they don’t have very long to dedicate to each case. There are specific factors that will impact their ultimate decision including:
- The nature of the crime you were convicted of.
- Your age when you were first incarcerated.
- Any prior convictions.
- Your employment history prior to being convicted.
- Any history of a supervisory release revocation.
- Your current age.
- Whether your crime was gang-related or whether you’ve joined a gang in jail.
- Any prison disciplinary conduct.
- Any programs you’ve completed behind bars (educational, vocational).
- Your current prison custody level.
Some factors, like the crime you committed, can’t be altered. You do have power over other factors, though, like your behavior while incarcerated. If you’re working towards parole, then it’s suggested that you focus on these factors that you can change.
Parole Board Voting Options
Three parole board members hold your future in their hands, but only two of them will vote in most situations. If these two members vote differently, then the third board member will make the final decision.
The board will review your file before voting. Members have several voting options available to them, and they typically must provide a reason for either approving or denying parole. The vote will also come with a recommendation. Here is a brief overview of the voting options:
- FI-1 (Approved): Release when eligible
- FI-2 (Approved): Release on a specific date
- FI-3R (Approved): Release after completion of a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 3 months
- FI-4R (Approved): Release after completion of a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 4 months
- FI-5 (Approved): Release after completion of In-prison therapeutic community program
- FI-6 (Approved): Release to a continuum of care program after a DWI program
- FI-6R (Approved): Release after completing a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 6 months
- FI-7R (Approved): Release after completion of a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 7 months
- FI-9R (Approved): Release after completion of a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 9 months
- FI-18R (Approved): Release after completion of a rehabilitation program, no earlier than 18 months
- CU/FI (Approved): Release on the date the offender would’ve been eligible for release if they’d been given a single sentence rather than consecutive ones
- RMS (Approved): Release to mandatory supervision
- NR (Denied): Denied parole, new hearing set for at least one year away
- SA (Denied): Denied, no subsequent review, the offender must serve the remainder of their sentence
- CU/NR (Denied): Set next hearing for one year out
- CU/SA (Denied): New review date is set one year or five years out
- DMS (Denied): Next review date is set one year out
Once a decision is reached, you won’t have an opportunity to approach the board again until your next hearing date.
Check Your Parole Status Now
Do you know someone who is currently on parole? In Texas, parole details are public information. That means anyone can check on someone else’s parole status at any time. Here’s how:
- Reach out to the Board of Pardons and Paroles in Austin (844) 512-0461
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
When seeking out this information, you’ll want to know the inmate’s name. It will also speed up the process if you have other information like the person’s date of birth or TDCJ number. You’ll also be able to obtain information about parole hearings for those who are still incarcerated.
Denied Parole? Your Next Steps
Were you denied parole? It’s completely natural to feel disheartened by the parole board’s decision, but you do have a few options available to you.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to file an appeal. If the board made an error reviewing your file or new information surfaces, then an appeal will likely be accepted. The problem is that you’ll have to prove why you deserve a second chance to meet with the parole board.
Appealing your parole denial comes with many challenges, so it’s recommended you reach out to an attorney if you find yourself in this situation.
Can an Attorney Help?
Understanding the parole process in Texas is no easy feat. From discerning what factors matter to implementing changes that will make a difference, obtaining parole is a challenge. On top of this pressure, you have limited opportunities to change the parole board member’s minds.
Having an attorney by your side is invaluable. They’ll provide specific legal advice based on your circumstances, and they’ll help with any potential appeals process. It’s advised that you seek out an attorney in your area if you or a loved one will be eligible for parole soon.
Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature – from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges. Parole review hearings are an area of specialty for him and he proudly serves Houston, Texas.