Understanding Parole as Part of Criminal Sentencing in Texas

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Parole in Texas is a way – or is meant to be a way – to help an offender return to society. Conditions of parole are often the same as probation, so you are not free to do what you want or think you can. A parolee must abide by the conditions set for release. Failure to do so can result in a return to jail, among other penalties, and no one wants that.

What is Parole?

Parole is a form of conditional release that allows a prisoner to serve the rest of their sentence in the community. While on parole, offenders are supervised by a parole officer and must comply with various conditions. If they fail to do so, they risk returning to prison.

Parole is not an automatic right. While a prisoner may be entitled to apply for parole at a certain point of their sentence, parole is not guaranteed. Parole applications are heard and decided by a parole board. 

Parole is designed to assist offenders in reentering society and readjusting to life outside of a custodial environment. Supporting offenders in this way also reduces their risk of reoffending.

Eligibility for Parole in Texas

Prisoners are usually required to serve a minimum amount of their sentence before they can apply for parole. A prisoner's parole eligibility date depends on the jurisdiction where they are applying. 

Generally, a parole board holds a hearing to hear arguments to determine whether an offender is eligible for parole and whether to grant it. Factors considered in this determination include the relevant crime(s), the circumstances of the offense, the offender's criminal history, and their personal circumstances. 

Parole will be denied if any of the following circumstances:

  • A substantial risk exists that the offender will not comply with parole conditions
  • Parole could depreciate the seriousness of the crime
  • Parole could adversely affect institutional discipline
  • The offender needs continued correctional treatment, vocational training, other training, or medical care, which is best provided while institutionalized

For the most serious offenses, prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole are prohibited from ever applying for parole. 

TexasCommon Parole Conditions

An offender's parole conditions will depend on the relevant law, the circumstances of the offense, and the personal circumstances of the offender. 

Parole conditions either impose a positive obligation on the offender or restrict their behavior. For example, some common parole conditions include the requirement to:

  • Report regularly to a parole officer
  • Maintain employment and a residential address
  • Attend drug or alcohol counseling
  • Submit to electronic monitoring
  • Not commit any further offenses
  • Not consume any drugs or alcohol
  • Not leave the state without permission
  • Not interact with other offenders
  • Not possess a gun or other weapon

Parole boards generally have wide discretion when it comes to deciding parole conditions. 

Parole Violations in Texas

There are serious consequences for failing to comply with the conditions of parole. An offender may violate their parole by:

  • Committing an offense
  • Failing to report to a parole officer as required
  • Failing a drug or alcohol test
  • Leaving the state without prior permission

Possible consequences of violating parole include:

  • A formal warning from a parole officer
  • Stricter parole conditions like increased drug testing
  • Revocation of parole and return to prison to serve some or all of the remainder of the sentence

Before an offender's parole can be revoked, they will appear before at least one parole violation hearing. If they are contesting a violation, the hearing allows the offender to present evidence and challenge any evidence presented by the authorities.

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