False Promises and Parole Boards

Texas parole blogs often warn inmates that they should never waive a right to a revocation hearing. This is good advice, but unfortunately the intended audience is usually already incarcerated and doesn’t get to hear it.

So this entry is for those individuals newly released to parole who are currently in good standing with their PO but who need to know the consequences of waiving their right to a revocation hearing. Rather than dryly outline the procedures — blue warrant, arrest, meeting with PO, preliminary hearing, revocation hearing — I think an illustrative PO tactic is better. At least it gives you some strategic insight.

There comes a point in any revocation when the PO attempts to “sell” the parolee on waiving his rights to a revocation hearing. Usually, this occurs with the two actors — PO and parolee — facing each other, with wire mesh or safety glass between them. Often each person will have a plastic jail phone receiver pressed up against his or her ear.

This is not an equal playing field. The parolee is usually scared, in need of an ally, and desperate to hear someone tell him that everything is going to be okay. The PO, on the other hand, is over-worked, bored, and desperate to reduce her work load so she can enjoy her weekend.

The PO also has lots of institutional knowledge on his side. She knows that no matter what she tells the parolee, that the paperwork she is about to convince him to sign will contain the magic language that:

“I understand that the parole officer has no authority to make promises as to what will happen if I do not have a hearing. I understand that the Parole Board will, in all probability, revoke. have not been coerced into signing this waiver.”

  • (taken directly from the TDCJ Parole Division waiver form)

With this boilerplate language in hand, the PO can then attempt to coax the parolee into a waiver using various strategies. Perhaps the most effective strategy is what I call the the “soft recommendation.”

If works as follows:

First get on the parolee’s side by assuring him that although he is now wearing an orange jumpsuit it’s really no big deal. There are always a few technical violations, like a failure to report, etc. Start with those. Convince the parolee that he should really just concede the point and admit to them. Once the PO has a concession on the technical violation, it’s time to close the deal by telling the parolee that she’s recommending reinstatement or, at the worst, ISF (intermediate sanctions facility). This is the “soft recommendation.” It’s the hook that convinces the parolee to just waive his rights. Why force the board to have a hearing when you already have a pal on the inside working for you? Your friendly PO is going to bat with the board. Don’t annoy them by demanding a hearing. They will follow the PO’s recommendations.

In fact, the PO knows that the Board will ignore his lenient recommendation if the alleged violation involves a serious new offense. But it doesn’t hurt the PO to make the soft recommendation anyway, especially if that helps get the parolee to waive his hearing rights.

It’s a clever, effective tactic. It plays on the parolee’s desire to have some good news. And even though their paperwork says a PO can’t make any promises about what the Board will do, your average parolee is going to put more weight on the words being spoken to him than what’s in the fine print.

Unfortunately, I’ve had clients fall for this tactic in the past. Don’t be one of them. Remember that a PO’s recommendation has no real power over the Board. Stick to your guns, and exercise your right to a hearing.

 

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