More than 20 years after Texas limited the its state Board of Pardons and Paroles to approving or denying cases not supervising parole officers or parolees, a new state report is sparking debate about whether to expand the agency’s duties again, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Such a change would be the biggest shift in Texas’ corrections system in decades — and the idea has sparked a turf war between the parole board and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which runs state prisons and supervises parole officers.
Texas has more than 75,000 men and women on parole, one of the nation’s largest systems. Parole decisions and cases generally are not public, but examples have surfaced in which the parole board voted to impose restrictions on convicts as a condition of their release, and then a parole officer later modified or removed that condition without the parole board ever knowing about it. In other cases, restrictions were imposed on parolees by the parole division without the board approving. “This has been going on for some time,” said Bill Habern, a Huntsville parole attorney. “It causes confusion, both for the parolees and the officers. The solution is to unify the roles of the two agencies and have one captain in charge of the ship.”