Parole as it Relates to State Jail

As the news has had stories about legislators and others debating whether or not the State Jail system unique to Texas should be shut down, several people have asked about what State Jail is and how parole works if you are sentenced to State Jail, so I thought we'd take a few lines to give a brief explanation.

A number of years ago lawmakers were reclassifying crimes and decided to take some felonies and move them down in class, creating a new system called "State Jail Felonies". These carry mandatory probation on a first offense, but after that the prison sentence can be up to two years with a probation period up to five years.

The big difference is that State Jail time is served day for day, with no good time or work time credit given and no chance of early parole. A two years State Jail sentence means a prisoner will serve a total of two years.

Without going into the budgetary issues or reasons for or against the system, there is a very practical effect for those people sentenced to State Jail.

The facilities are wild. There is no reason for the prisoners to behave, since they can't lose any credit. All they can lose are commissary, visitation, and similar privileges, but since many people don't make commissary or get visits there is really no incentive for them to behave. Fights, contraband, drugs, and other illegal activities are common, particularly in the private facilities like the Bradshaw and Dawson facilities run by CCA.

While State Jail is certainly an option to consider, many people end up doing more time on a state jail crime than they would on a higher grade felony, in a facility that is worse.