While we discuss this more thoroughly in our book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet, I just wanted to say a few words about how taking part in classes while incarcerated can potentially improve the chances of parole.
Almost everyone who enters the Texas prison system and does not have a high school diploma are enrolled in, or at least encouraged to enroll in, classes which will help them pass the GED test (high school equivalency). Realistically, the latest studies don't support the idea a GED will significantly improve the chances for a job. However, the reason for taking the GED and scoring well while incarcerated is that it gives the prisoner a chance to use that in their parole packet and argue that the ability to take the classes and pass the test prove they have changed due to the incarceration and are taking affirmative steps to improve themselves. If the GED score is high enough, a plan to proceed with either a vocational education or enter a junior college will allow the potential parolee to show they have thought through a course for their life which does not include criminal activity.
Although many of the vocational classes, particularly at the private prisons (which are getting fewer), are just ways for the prison to get free workers as they "train" the prisoners, the parole board can consider this training as another example of an action taken to improve the prisoner's employability. Since there is no charge for these classes, and time is the one thing you have an excess of if you are in prison, the taking of vocational classes can only help the chances of parole. A certificate from this class, particularly if it is a certificate showing the course was completed, makes a good addition to the parole packet.
The number of people who find religion in prison is only matched by the number who lose it when they are released. However, many of the church groups offer correspondence classes and when finished. They will send the prisoner a certificate of completion and sometimes a bible or other type of religious material. Again, this is a way that a person can show they didn't idle away their time "inside" but kept busy. Whether the voting members of the parole board believe the interest in religion is serious or not, the certificates make a good addition to the parole packet and with a little thought can also help the prisoner make the case they have tried to better themselves by improving their mind during their sentence.
Texas Parole Packets
Many parole packets are anemic, simply because the prisoner chose not to be active while in prison. Thus, they don't have anything to show the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole to weigh against the folder and paperwork containing information about their crime. At that point, whether they "make parole" or not is a coin toss.
As we describe in our book, a proper Texas parole packet will not only show the progress the potential parolee has made but it can also engage the voting member and draw attention away from the police, District Attorney, and court documents, and instead focus them on the prisoner as a person, rather than just as a number. The certificates alone won't likely change a vote from a denial of parole to a granting of parole, but a good parole packet, prepared with a plan in mind and in the manner we set forth in How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet, can be the difference between release and waiting for the next parole review.