The Dallas Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

What is Parole in Texas?

Simply put, parole is an early, supervised release from prison. It is a discretionary and conditional power of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (the Board) to grant or deny parole. After the offender/inmate becomes eligible and then approved for parole by the Board, he will be released from a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison (or county jail) to serve the remaining portion of his sentence in the community under the supervision and terms of the Parole Division. The parolee will report on a regular schedule to his parole officer and must obey the terms and conditions of his parole until his sentence is completed.

The parole process begins after the Client is convicted, and Mr. Karns' role in this process can best be described as an advocate. To begin with, Mr. Karns can help you determine your loved-one's parole eligibility date, and if he has already reached that date and was denied his last parole, Mr. Karns can help you figure out when he next will be reviewed. Most parole statutes are found in the Texas Government Code. A Client's parole eligibility date is determined by the law in effect at the time the offense was committed. To become eligible for parole on an aggravated or "3g"1 offense, a Client must serve between one-third to one-half of his sentence with no consideration of his "good"2 or "work"3 time. In other words, only his "flat"4 time counts toward the total time served on his sentence, and he must serve a minimum of two years flat time.

In order to become eligible for parole on a non-aggravated or non-"3g" case, a Client must have time credits (the sum of his "flat," "good," and/or "work" time) equivalent to one-quarter of his sentence. However, being eligible for parole does not necessarily mean that he will be approved for parole. Parole is by no means "automatic" because it is always up to the discretion of the Board. It is possible that an inmate could serve his entire original sentence, regardless of how many times he is reviewed for parole.

After the Client's parole eligibility is confirmed, Mr. Karns investigates and reviews the Client's case, identifying the issues that would be relevant to obtaining parole for the Client. He personally interviews the Client on his TDCJ unit and develops a "parole plan" for the Client. Ultimately, he organizes the parole plan and the Client's information into a comprehensive, eye-pleasing presentation to the Board called a "parole packet." The packet forms the basis of his presentation to the Board's lead reviewer of the Client's case.

It is hard to underestimate the value of providing an advocate for your loved-one who is in the parole review process, especially considering the mission of TDCJ: to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society, and assist victims of crime. TDCJ's first priority is to protect public safety, and it does this by only paroling those it believes are least likely to re-offend. Having an attorney like Mr. Karns present a relevant, organized, and persuasive argument and plan that your loved-one is rehabilitated and no longer a threat to public safety is a very important part of getting the Board to vote "yes" on parole.


1 "3g" offenses, so named because they are listed in Section 3g of Chapter 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, include: murder; capital murder; indecency with a child; aggravated kidnapping; aggravated sexual assault; aggravated robbery; sexual assault; injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual; sexual performance by a child; or even for an offense that is not on this list, an offense where there was an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon.

2 "Good time," or good time credits, are extra days of incarceration credited to the inmate which count toward the completion of his sentence just as the actual days he has earned serving his sentence by physically being in the prison. For example, an inmate can earn up to thirty days good time for every thirty days he has physically been in prison, meaning that he is credited for having served sixty days rather than just thirty days he has actually, physically been in prison. How many days an inmate can earn in good time depends upon his time earning status.

3 "Work time" is extra days credited to the inmate for working a job while incarcerated in a similar manner to good time.

4 "Flat time" is also known as calendar time, because it represents the day for day time that the inmate has physically been in the prison. Flat time is always equivalent to the sum of the calendar days the inmate has served, without any other additional time credited.