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Texas Parole Guidelines

Texas Parole Guidelines

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12/04/2013

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An Overview of Texas Parole Guidelines

Criminal Justice Policy Council December 2001 Tony Fabelo, Ph.D. Executive Director
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An Overview of Texas Parole Guidelines

To view or download this report, visit our web site at www.cjpc.state.tx.us

Criminal Justice Policy Council P.O. Box 13332 Austin, TX 78711 (512) 463-1810
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Written by: Sharon Keilin Board of Pardons and Paroles

Contributors: Mike Eisenberg Pablo Martinez, Ph.D. Michelle Munson

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Note from the Director
This report presents an overview of the history of parole guidelines in Texas and reviews the structure of the parole guidelines that became operational in September 2001. State law mandates the Criminal Justice Policy Council (CJPC) to monitor the utilization of the parole guidelines and assist the Parole Board in assessing and revalidating the guidelines. The Texas Legislature in 1985 mandated the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (the board) to develop parole decision-making guidelines based on acceptable research methods to identify risk factors related to recidivism and based on a ranking of offense severity. The board adopted the guidelines in 1987 but after a few years of use, the guidelines were not updated, there was no computerized system to facilitate their use and it was not clear if the guidelines were being utilized. In 1997, the CJPC submitted a report to the Governor and legislature recommending strategies to adopt new guidelines. In 1998, the National Institute of Corrections, at the request of the board, reviewed the same issue and recommended a redesign of the guidelines. In December 1999, the board contracted with Security Response Technologies (SRT) to design new guidelines. This national consulting company completed the guidelines and the board adopted the recommended guidelines in June 2001. The guidelines became operational on September 1, 2001. Parole guidelines are intended to assist the board in making decisions based on objective and uniform criteria. The use of guidelines can also make parole policies more predictable helping make prison population projections more accurate. More accurate projections will help better plan prison capacity management policies. The Texas parole guidelines are discretionary and the board members retain their discretion to vote outside the guidelines when necessary. The parole guidelines “score” inmates eligible for parole consideration on their risk factors and on their offense severity ranking. Risk factors were identified by research conducted by SRT and include factors like prior incarcerations and prison disciplinary conduct. Offense severity rankings were determined by ratings given by the board to 1,931 felony offenses in the Penal Code. The risk and severity factors are scored separately and then merged in a composite score ranging from 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest risk and highest offense severity. Each composite score includes probable parole rates. For example, offenders in the highest risk and highest severity category are scored as 1 and the approval probability for this level is 0% to 5%. Offenders in the lowest risk and lowest severity category are scored as 7 with an approval probability of 76% to 100%. The approval rate probabilities were calculated by the SRT consultants based on discussions with board members and a review of the risk factors of the prison population. These approval rate probabilities are tentative and subject to change as the use of the guidelines are closely monitored and evaluated.

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Note from the Director
The CJPC will periodically report to the board and the state leadership the statistics related to the utilization of the guidelines by each board member as mandated by law. The Texas Legislature in 2001 further directed the CJPC to issue a report to the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board no later than January 1, 2003 reviewing the implementation, monitoring and validation of parole guidelines. Tony Fabelo, Ph.D. Executive Director

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Legislative History and Chronology
• In 1985, the legislature mandated the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to develop parole decision-making guidelines in Article 42.18, § 8 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. √ The board shall develop and implement parole guidelines that shall be the basic criteria on which parole decisions are made. The parole guidelines shall be developed according to an acceptable research method and shall be based on the seriousness of the offense and the likelihood of favorable parole outcome.

In 1987, the board formally adopted parole guidelines that combined measurements of both severity and risk into one scoring instrument. √ The board called this instrument the PABLO SCORE in recognition of Dr. Pablo Martinez who developed the instrument.

In 1993, the legislature directed the Criminal Justice Policy Council to monitor the utilization by the board of the parole guidelines and report to the state leadership on the use of the parole guidelines by each member of the board in making parole decisions (Chapter 413, Texas Government Code, § 21). In 1994, the CJPC reported to the legislature their inability to issue statistics for monitoring the utilization of the guidelines due to the lack of valid computerized data for analysis. Staff spent the next year collecting data with which to analyze guidelines utilization and to evaluate operational issues.

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Legislative History and Chronology (cont.)
• In 1997, the CJPC submitted a report to the Governor and legislature indicating that: √ √ The board had not updated the elements of its parole guidelines since 1987. The board had not submitted a report to the leadership identifying strategies, timelines and resources it needed to update and operationally implement a guidelines system as mandated by law.

In 1997 and 1998, the board submitted applications to the National Institute of Corrections for assistance. √ A 1998 NIC short-term site assessment recommended that a fundamental re-examination and redesign of the parole guidelines be undertaken with the help of a professional consultant. The board awarded a consultant services contract to Security Response Technologies, Inc. (SRT) on December 27, 1999 to design new guidelines.

In June 2001, SRT completed the new parole guidelines based on identifiable risk components and factors. On July 1, 2001, the Parole Division’s Institutional Parole Officers (IPOs) began calculating a parole guidelines score for each eligible offender using the new guidelines. They also began using the new Decision Summary Form to report scores manually to board members. On September 1, 2001 (FY 2002), board panels began using the parole guidelines score to assist them in making parole decisions.

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Purpose of the Guidelines
• Guidelines provide board members objective criteria to supplement individual case assessment in making parole decisions. √ √ √ Guidelines are discretionary but guidelines make parole decision-making criteria more explicit and predictable to the public, the legislature, correctional officials and offenders. The use of guidelines can reduce disparity in sentencing decisions. Guidelines can provide stability in parole release policies over time that will assist in making prison population projections more accurate.

Each year in Texas, the board reviews over 60,000 offenders for release on parole. √ Using guidelines, the board can readily identify cases by risk level and avoid releasing high-risk inmates too early or low-risk inmates too late while spending more time evaluating the remaining cases where a decision is tougher to reach.

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Components of the Guidelines
High Risk

More Time

Risk Level Less Time
Low Severity High Severity

Low Risk

Offense Severity Class

The parole guidelines consist of two major components that interact to provide a single score. The first is a Risk Assessment Instrument that weighs both static and dynamic factors associated with the inmate’s risk of recidivating. These factors classify offenders into categories of risk of future recidivism. The other component is the Offense Severity class. Static factors are those associated with the inmate’s prior criminal record that impact risk. They will not change over time. Dynamic factors reflect risk factors the inmate has demonstrated since being incarcerated and can change over time. √ Static risk factors include: ♦ Age at first admission to a juvenile or adult correctional facility ♦ History of supervisory release revocations for felony offenses ♦ Prior incarcerations ♦ Employment history ♦ The commitment offense Dynamic risk factors include: ♦ Inmate’s current age ♦ Whether the inmate is a confirmed security threat group (gang member) ♦ Education, vocational and certified on-the-job training programs completed during the present incarceration ♦ Prison disciplinary record ♦ Current prison custody level

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Components of the Guidelines (cont.)
• An inmate can be assigned 0-9 points on static factors and 0-12 points on dynamic factors. A low score is associated with a low risk of recidivism. The higher the score, the greater the risk the inmate presents for failure on parole: Assigned Risk Level
Low Risk Moderate Risk High Risk Highest Risk

Points
0-5 6-8 9-11 12+

% of Offenders Paroled with Felony Arrests after 2 Years
13% 22% 30% 38%

The other component of the guidelines is Offense Severity Class. √ √ √ Board members have assigned an offense severity rating to every one of the 1,931 felony offenses in the Penal Code. Offense Severity classes range from Low for non-violent crimes such as credit card abuse, to Highest for crimes such as capital murder. An inmate’s most serious active offense is assigned an Offense Severity Class according to the established list.

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Components of the Guidelines (cont.)
• After both factors have been considered, the two components are then merged into a matrix that creates the inmate’s parole guidelines score. √ The score is calculated based on the intersection of his risk level and the offense severity rating. √ The higher an inmate’s score, the better risk he is predicted to be to complete a successful parole. √ The guidelines are discretionary and the parole guidelines level is not presumptive as to parole. √ Board members retain the discretion to vote outside the guidelines when the circumstances of an individual case merit their doing so. • Parole guideline scores range from 1 for an individual with the poorest probability for success, up to 7 for an inmate with the greatest probability for success.

Offense Severity Class
Highest High Moderate Low

Risk Level
Highest 1 2 2 3 High 2 3 4 4 Moderate 2 4 5 6 Low 3 4 6 7

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Parole Guidelines Matrix and Recommended Parole Approval Rates
• Each parole guidelines score has been assigned an approval probability rate as shown below. The consultant calculated these grant rates based on discussions with board members and a review of the risk factors of the TDCJ offender population. √ √ √ The suggested parole approval probability rates are tentative and subject to change as the use of guidelines is closely monitored and evaluated. The rates are group targets and do not present a presumptive rate for a particular case. This structure permits board members to have discretion in each case, but it also establishes benchmarks for making parole decisions in the aggregate that can be monitored to determine if the board is following its own guidelines.

CJPC will use these benchmarks to monitor and report on the Board’s decisions and to determine if changes in the benchmarks are merited in the future.

Parole Approval Probability Suggested by Consultants for Each Guideline Level Offense Severity Risk Level Highest High Moderate Low Class
Highest High Moderate Low 1 0 - 5% 2 5 - 15% 2 5 - 15% 3 16 - 25% 2 5 - 15% 3 16 - 25% 4 21 - 35% 4 21 - 35% 2 5 - 15% 4 21 - 35% 5 36 - 50% 6 51 - 75% 3 16 - 25% 4 21 - 35% 6 51 - 75% 7 76 - 100%

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Parole Guidelines: Case Processing

Mechanics of the Guidelines

Parole Division identifies inmate as eligible for parole review.

Institutional Parole Officer (IPO) completes Risk Assessment Instrument, assigning inmate a score between 0-21 points and assessing him as Low to Highest risk.

IPO consults Offense Severity list and assigns inmate an Inmate Severity class from Low to Highest based on his most serious active offense.

IPO merges the Risk Assessment rank and the Offense Severity class into a matrix that creates the inmate’s Parole Guidelines Score based on the intersection of his risk level and the offense severity rating. The higher an inmate’s score, the better risk he is predicted to be to complete a successful parole.

IPO documents the inmate’s Parole Guidelines Score on a Decision Summary Sheet and forwards it with the inmate’s case file to the board panel that will vote. Board members utilize the Parole Guidelines Score in deciding whether to approve or deny parole.

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Parole Guidelines: Voting Process

Mechanics of the Voting Process

Parole Division identifies inmate as eligible for parole review

July 2001 through September 2002: Institutional Parole Officer (IPO) computes P arole Guidelines Score & reports it to Board Members on Decision Summary Form

Beginning in September 2002 (projected start date): When OIMS is online, IPO will compute P arole Guidelines Score online & transmit case file & Decision Summary Form electronically to board members

Individual Case File & Written Decision Summary Form are forwarded to board panel

Board panel votes electronically to grant or deny parole & indicates reason(s) for its decision per BPP Directive 01-02.01

Board panel votes to grant or deny parole & indicates reason(s) for its decision per BPP Directive 01-02.01

OIMS - Offender Information Management System

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Next Steps
• Board members and staff are continuing to work with the TDCJ Reengineering Group to incorporate the new guidelines into the Offender Information Management System (OIMS). √ √ • When the new information system is operational, board panels will review case files and Decision Summary Forms online and will vote parole decisions electronically. September 2002 is the target date for the information system to be operational.

The CJPC will monitor use of the guidelines in the months ahead to confirm their reliability and validity and to determine if guidelines are meeting established goals. √ √ CJPC will issue monthly monitoring reports for the board to review and periodical reports to the state leadership to review as mandated by state law. CJPC will issue a report to the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board no later than January 1, 2003 reviewing the implementation, monitoring and validation of parole guidelines as mandated by state law.

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