There is A LOT of confusion among prisoners, their families, and even Texas lawyers who don’t do a lot of parole work about a couple of terms used by the Texas Department of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). “Mandatory Supervised Release” and “Discretionary Mandatory Supervised Release” are still used because:
- there is a theoretical possibility that some people still in prison are subject to the old rules, and
- the terms have never been written out of the legislation dealing with paroles.
Unfortunately, the terms are extremely misleading and are used in every case, regardless of whether or not they actually apply.
Prior to September 1, 1996, prisoners who received a sentence were absolutely entitled to be released on a certain date, based on their sentence, their time served, and the addition of any good time credit.
Mandatory Supervised Release
As the TBPP website explains Mandatory Supervised Release:
“Mandatory Supervision is the automatic release from prison to supervision provided by law for restricted categories of offenders. Eligible offenders are released onto mandatory supervision when their calendar time served added to their good time credit equals the length of their prison sentence. The release to mandatory supervision does not require the approval of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board does set the mandatory conditions of release.”
Essentially, it means the board can set the terms and conditions and change them when they desire, but they have no choice as to whether to grant parole. Some offenders, such as those who were assessed a death penalty (obviously), are not eligible for parole and thus would not have a parole date of any kind.
Discretionary Mandatory Supervised Release
However, after September 1, 1996, the other term “Discretionary Mandatory Supervised Release” comes into play. That term always gets to me because something can either be discretionary or mandatory, but the same thing cannot be both. Regardless of my pet peeve as to wording, the term is used and will be for the foreseeable future.
The TBPP website explains Discretionary Mandatory Supervised Release:
“The Board must review eligible offenders for possible release to discretionary mandatory supervision on or before their eligibility date. However, as with parole release, the Board has the discretion to grant or deny release”.
So, essentially, the date they give now just means it is the date on which the voting members of the Texas Department of Pardons and Paroles will review the case to determine whether or not the offender is to be released.
If a parole packet is being prepared, and particularly if you are using the strategy set forth in our book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet, the information must be gathered and sent to the TBPP in advance of the date on which it is considered (the Discretionary Mandatory Supervised Release Date). We recommend that the information be sent in weeks, if not months, ahead of time so it is sure to find its way to the hands of the correct voting members.