As coronavirus spreads across Texas and the rest of the country, Texas inmates are urging officials to change parole guidelines. One inmate was only 20 days shy of completing nearly three years of parole after a drug conviction. Now, he is in jail trying to learn the outcome of his parole case. Inmates waiting for parole boards to determine whether they can get out on parole makeup approximately 15% of the jail population.
Inmates Waiting on Parole at Risk Catching Coronavirus in Jail
Inmates often wait months on parole hold until they receive a decision on whether or not they can exit their jail cells on parole. Now, the wait will be even longer. Many inmates, jail staffers, and law sheriff deputies have become infected with the coronavirus. A 27-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office recently died at home after testing positive for COVID-19.
Inmates Waiting for Parole are Calling for Immediate Release
Many Texas inmates who are on parole hold have been charged with nonviolent crimes, mainly drug possession. Others are back in jail after they violated the terms of their parole. Violations include missing meetings with their parole officers, traveling without the proper permission, and drinking alcohol while on parole.
What Happens When a Parolee Faces a New Criminal Charge?
When parolees have been accused of a new crime, the process is more complicated, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the agencies must allow them to leave — the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. Typically, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does not lift parole holds that prevent parolees from release until the parole board issues a final decision.
When the San Antonio Express-News contacted each agency, they seemed to pass on the responsibility onto another agency, making it more difficult for inmates to leave jail on parole. The process is usually lengthy and complicated. It is even more complicated due to these agencies working amidst shutdowns and employee shortages.
Texas Just Topped 1,000 New Cases for the Third Straight Day
On May 2nd, Texas had a third straight day of 1,000 newly diagnosed coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, the state has started re-opening its economy by allowing residents to go back to restaurants, malls, and movie theaters. On Friday, the statewide “stay at home” order expired, meaning that 30 million people will be able to return to restaurants and stores.
Many are expecting an uptick in Texas coronavirus cases that will negatively affect inmates in Texas jails and prisons. Inmates are extremely vulnerable to contracting the virus because of their close quarters with other inmates.
Contact Our Experienced Texas Criminal Justice Lawyers
If you are an inmate who needs to be released on parole, our law firm can help advocate for your rights during this uncertain time. Contact our Dallas/Fort Worth criminal law attorneys as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.