Appealing a Denial of Parole in Texas

Denied parole in Texas can be appealed in certain circumstances.
Denied parole in Texas can be appealed in certain circumstances.

When an offender’s parole is denied there is a decision to make, whether to just wait until the next possible parole date or whether to appeal the denial. While we at cannot tell you which decision is best for you, this article is designed to provide information to assist in deciding whether to appeal or wait. 

How Parole Voting Works

As we have often discussed, the decision on whether a parole is granted or denied is an issue for the voting members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. While there are three members assigned to each parole application, the file is reviewed by two members who then issue their vote. Only in the event of a tie does the third member vote at all. There are a number of mandatory factors which must be considered as well as additional items which are optional and may be considered. 

In their decision, a code is used in the event of either the granting or denial of parole. These codes are discussed in detail in our book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet. However, it is not uncommon for the parole board to use the most general codes for a denial. These general codes provide little to no assistance in determining whether or not to appeal the denial.

One of the most often used reasons for a denial is the offender’s criminal history. An extensive history of problems with the law will make it much less likely that an offender will be granted parole on the first application, as will any aggravating factors of the crime for which the inmate was sentenced.

A history of drug and/or alcohol abuse as well as whether the offender was ever placed on probation or parole before, and whether they successfully completed that parole or probation, will also be considered and if the denial is based on this then the explanation will so state.

Texas state laws give some offenders in prison the opportunity to be granted parole before they finish their sentences. For those who are denied parole, however, they may not want to wait until their next parole hearing to be released from prison. When you have been turned down for parole, you can decide if it is worth appealing this decision by learning more about the Texas parole denial appeals process.

The Parole Review Process

In the state of Texas, the decision whether or not to grant parole to eligible people in prison falls to the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles. The members on this board are obligated to review each parole case that comes before them. They must weigh an extensive array of criteria before deciding whether or not to grant parole to an offender.

They also must be clear in their decision about granting or denying someone the opportunity for parole. They are required to outline their decision making process by using a coded list of criteria that is mandated by the state of Texas. These codes allow offenders and their attorneys to know exactly why they were granted or denied parole from prison.

Parole Approval or Denial Criteria

The generic codes that the Board of Pardons and Paroles in Texas must use cover a broad set of circumstances which are applied to every offender who applies for parole. These circumstances determine whether or not an offender should be released on parole or if it is better for the offender to remain in prison for a longer period of time or, possibly, to complete their sentence.

One of the primary considerations for granting or denying parole is the person’s criminal history. The board members must determine if the person has a documented history for committing violent crimes like assault.

If the person’s record shows a history of repeated criminal episodes, the board may interpret this as the offender having a predisposition for violence and posing a serious risk to the community. In this instance, the person would be denied parole.

Another criteria taken into consideration is the nature of the offense for which the person was imprisoned. The board will review whether or not the crime was violent or non-violent in nature. If the crime was not a violent one, the person is more likely to be paroled sooner than someone who was convicted of a violent offense.

Likewise, a person’s gang affiliation could also work against the offender who is up for parole. The Board of Pardons and Paroles members are reluctant to grant parole to known gang members because it is considered to be an enhanced risk to the community. A disavowal of a gang affiliation may increase the likelihood of being granted parole.

The voting members of the board also review the offenders’ behavior and disciplinary records during the time they were incarcerated. If a person has no record of any type of disruption during their prison time then the chances of being granted parole are better.

If inmates have been on probation or parole and successfully completed those terms then they are more likely to be paroled than someone whose probation/parole was revoked.

These are some of the main considerations that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles must utilize before granting someone parole. They should be clearly detailed by the board after it decides whether or not to deny parole to an offender.

Denial Codes and Reasons

Denial Code Denial Category Reason for Denial
1D Criminal History The record indicates that the inmate has repeatedly committed criminal episodes or has a pattern of similar offenses that indicates a predisposition to commit criminal acts upon release; or the record indicates that the inmate is a leader or active participant in gang or organized criminal activity; or the record indicates a juvenile or adult arrest for felony or misdemeanor offenses.
2D Nature of the Offense The record indicates that the inmate committed one or more violent criminal acts indicating a conscious disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others; or the instant offense or pattern of criminal activity has elements of brutality, violence, or conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability such that the inmate poses a continuing threat to public safety.
3D Drug and Alcohol Involvement The record indicates excessive drug or alcohol involvement that includes possession, use or delivery in the instant offense or criminal history.
4D Institutional Adjustment The record indicates that the inmate committed a major disciplinary offense during the preceding six months resulting in a loss of good conduct time or loss of status below that at which the inmate entered prison; or a pattern of disciplinary infractions since the last review indicates a disregard for the rules.
5D Adjustment During Periods of Supervision The record indicates unsuccessful periods of supervision on previous probation, parole, or mandatory supervision that resulted in incarceration, including parole-inabsentia.
6D Participation in TDCJ-CID Proposed or Specialized Programs The record indicates that the inmate refused to participate or intentionally failed to complete TDCJ-CID proposed program(s) made available to the inmate.
7D Time Served The record indicates that length of time served by the inmate is not congruent with offense severity and criminal history.
8D1 OR
Felony Offense The record indicates that the inmate has been charged before a magistrate, indicted, or convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction, with a felony offense committed while incarcerated
9D Discretionary Mandatory Supervision The record indicates that the inmate’s accrued good conduct time is not an accurate reflection of the inmate’s potential for rehabilitation or records indicates that the inmate’s release would endanger the public.
10D Gang Affiliation The record indicates that the offender is a confirmed member of one of the TDCJ-CID designated security threat group.

Reasons to Appeal Parole Denial

Texas inmates are only allowed to appeal their parole denial to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles under a very limited set of circumstances. These circumstances do not apply in most cases. 

However, if the person does meet the criteria then an appeal can be made. For example, if an offender can establish the voting members did not review some important information, the board may choose to grant that person’s appeal. Proving that this occurred is extremely difficult but it can occur if the denial includes things that were not in the file, that are diametrically opposed to the contents of the file, etc. The problem is that an offender isn’t entitled to see their actual parole file.

Another circumstance which can meet the appeals parole criteria is an error in administrative file processing. As we stated above, if the vote is taken based on materials from another file, the board must grant the offender the right to appeal.

Other examples of violations which meet the criteria would be if the board was told the offender did not participate in a program when in fact he or she did enroll and take part in it. Another situation would be if the offender requested a parole interview that did not take place prior to the parole hearing. Note that this “parole interview” is not like the ones shown in the movies where the potential parolee appears before the voting members and is asked questions. The pre-parole interview is usually conducted at the prison by a clerk who simply goes over the information in the file to be sure it is correct and to take possession of any additional information the inmate wants to provide.

However, unlike the initial parole process, it is extremely unlikely that an inmate can be successful in representing themselves on a parole appeal and thus hiring an attorney is necessary. They are much better able to review the documents as well as to request and conduct an appeal.

The greatest hindrance, and the reason it is rarely smart to appeal, is that a Texas parole is considered a privilege, not a right, and thus the standard to uphold the denial is very low. 

Simply put, it is a much better idea to focus your efforts on preparing a great Texas parole packet, and not in putting your faith in an appeal. This is discussed in detail in our book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet.


About the Author

Lawyer X
Lawyer X is the pen name of a former attorney who now spends all of his time writing and consulting. While in practice he was involved in both criminal and civil trials across the United States, including picking or helping to pick juries in hundreds of civil and criminal cases. In addition to his work as a trial lawyer, Lawyer X wrote articles, lectured at continuing legal education seminars, and was active in the legal community in many ways. He maintains anonymity now so that he can provide knowledge from inside and express honest opinions and viewpoints that other members of the legal community would just as soon weren't shared.