After years of fighting in court against giving Texas parolees a hearing before they are classified as sex offenders, state officials have begun dropping some sex offender designations — in some cases without administrative hearings, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The change occurred after an 8-0 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in May affirmed what federal courts had ruled: The parole board cannot unilaterally decide whether to brand a prisoner as a sex offender if he or she has not been convicted of a sexual offense.
As many as 6,900 of the 80,600 parolees could be affected by the change. To review those cases would require perhaps as many as 1,000 hearings a week — an impossible number, some officials said. The change caps more than a decade of court challenges, including at least five high-profile court decisions branding the action without hearings unconstitutional. Attorneys who have seen parolees’ so-called Condition X designations removed said the policy change is long overdue. “This is a huge change,” Austin attorney Gary Cohen said. “The law has been clear for years on this. But it just shows the institutional mentality of parole officials: Instead of doing the right thing, they resist and resist and resist and continue losing in court.”