The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (herein referred to as the board) is a Texas-based state agency charged with determining "which eligible offenders to release on parole or discretionary mandatory supervision, and under what conditions" (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2014). The board, moreover, makes decisions concerning parole revocation and issues clemency recommendations to the governor in an attempt to ensure that offenders are successfully reintegrated into the society, and more importantly, that the safety of the public is preserved (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011). The board is independent of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, but the two work closely, with the latter carrying out such responsibilities as supervising parolees, determining their release, and housing convicted felons (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011).
A Brief History of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
The Texas legislature, in 1929, did away with the "two-member board of patron advisors, which had existed since 1893, and established a three-person body to advise the governor on clemency matters" (Lucko, 2010). The three board members, one of whom was supervisor of paroles, and another chairman, were appointed by the governor in a process that was subject to senatorial approval (Lucko, 2010). During this period, the board's role was a purely advisory one, and the governor was not obliged to follow the board's advice.
The Texas Constitution was amended in 1935 to make the board an authoritative executive branch member, and the governor's clemency decisions subject to the recommendation of the board (Lucko, 2010). The Texas Criminal Court's presiding judge, the State's chief justice, and the governor were to each appoint one member to the three-member board (Lucko, 2010).
The timeline below lists the sequence of events that followed the 1935 constitutional amendment, all of which have contributed to the board's expansion and achievements. Today, the board is one of the most reputable in the country, headquartered in Huntsville, and with offices in San Antonio, Palestine, Gatesville, Angleton, Amarillo, and Austin (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011).
The board is, with the governor's approval, granted legislative authority to release prisoners, with the exception of death convicts, for probation or parole
A parole supervision division is created to increase the board's capacity to monitor offenders across district offices
Six parole commissioner positions are created to assist the board. The six are appointed in the same manner used to appoint the three board members, but work independently from the board.
A constitutional amendment sees the board's membership expanded to six, and the governor's revoke/release authority transferred to the board, whose membership constitutes of individuals appointed by the governor, with the senate's approval
The board's membership is expanded to 18, and the parole commissioner positions done away with, amidst the creation of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, charged with overseeing parole supervisions, incarceration and probation
The Texas legislature makes mandatory supervision discretionary for all offences committed on or after 1st September, 1996, and grants the board authority to block any releases that, in its opinion, posed a threat to the safety of the public
The eighteen-member board is modified to create a six-member policy board, which, under the precedence of a chair appointed by the governor, would formulate parole policies, establish caseloads, and develop rules for decision-making
Parole commissioners are added to the six-member board to assist with revocation and release decisions. The board today operates under this arrangement; six members appointed by the governor through the senate's confirmation, and twelve parole commissioners, two in each of the six offices.
(Source: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011; own-generated timeline)
The Board's Mission
The board's mission "is to perform its duties as imposed by article IV, Section11 of the Texas Constitution" (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2013). These duties are;
To ensure that the governor is served with appropriate recommendations regarding clemency issues.
To determine whether or not to revoke mandatory supervision or parole.
To determine mandatory supervision and parole conditions.
To determine which eligible prisoners are due for release to either mandatory supervision or parole programs.
In deciding whether or not to grant parole to an offender, the board makes use of a case summary provided by the parole commissioners. Some of the information captured in the case summary includes, but is not limited to, descriptions of the offender's;
Current offence: the weight of the specific offence that put the offender in prison, together with the amount of time already served (Topek, 2014).
Criminal Record: any type of community supervision the offender has been involved in prior to the current offence, and information on all previous cases in which they were involved, whether or not such resulted in imprisonment (Topek, 2014).
Personal History: the offender's education, employment history, psychological history, drug use, and age, together with their conduct during incarceration
The information obtained from the three components above is used to calculate an offender's guideline score, which is taken to measure their risk to society (Topek, 2014).
Parole-Supporting Information: reasons given by the offender's support system as to why their client deserves parole (Topek, 2014).
The Board's Goals
The board's activities and procedures are geared towards achieving three fundamental goals. These are;
To maximize "the restoration of human potential while restraining the growth of prison and jail populations" by rendering just determination regarding revocation and parole releases (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2013).
To ensure the successful reintegration of an offender into the society by imposing reasonable release conditions (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2013).
To ensure public safety by resolutely, and with due consideration, administering "the clemency process with recommendation to the governor (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2013).
The Board's Organizational Structure
An organizational structure, as defined by The Business Dictionary, is essentially "the hierarchical arrangement of lines of authority, communication, rights and duties of an organization." Figure 1 (attached) illustrates the board's organizational structure. Panels made up of at least three members, one of whom must be a board member, "may either meet together or review cases separately to make" granting or revocation decisions (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011, p. 3). The decision-making panel could, therefore, be composed of "any combination of board members, and parole commissioners" (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011, p. 3).
The Board's Hiring Policies
To be eligible to work for the board, a person must be a resident of Texas, having resided in the state for a period of not less than two years (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011). An alien is eligible if they possess a permit that allows them to work in the U.S. (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011). Additionally, an interested applicant ought to be aged at least eighteen, and should be a holder of a Bachelors degree, at the very least. Ceteris paribus, the board gives preference to majors in counseling, criminal justice, social work, psychology, and sociology (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011). Moreover, an applicant should be able to pass a drug test in addition to having a clean record with regard to criminality, with neither felony or domestic violence convictions, nor dishonorable military discharges (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011).
Positions are not necessarily advertised, and applicants have to drop their applications at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Once hired, officers undergo an intensive six-week training program at the board's academy, followed by a six-month course regarding the Texas Law-Enforcement Telecommunication System upon graduation (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011).
The Pros and Cons of Working for the Board
i) The Pros
As public state employees, board employees are entitled to a number of exceptional benefits and privileges, including;
Retirement: the Texas Public Employee Retirement System (TEXPERS) offers a wide range of retirement programs aimed at ensuring the financial security of the state's civil servants, of which the board workforce is part of (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011). Moreover, the State of Texas Discount Purchase Program administers the state's saving program, where employees working in state agencies can enroll in a tax-deferred compensation plan of their choice (Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2011).
Health Division: employees working in state agencies are required to enroll in at least one of the many pre-paid health/dental programs, in which case the state contributes to premiums. Moreover, employees can enroll in the GIC Dental and Vision Plan, where the state offers 50% coverage for major services such as dental implants, 80% coverage for extractions, and 100% coverage for diagnostic and preventive services.
Paid Leave: leave credits are advanced to state civil servants at the end of every pay period. The credit amount is determined by an employee's years of service, and one is eligible for accumulated credits once they are permanently separated from state service.
Paid Holidays: every state employee in Texas is entitled to payment for thirteen state holidays,…