Although it wasn’t widely publicized, the Sunset Advisory Commission is supposedly looking at the BPP to determine if the Board should be allowed to continue to exist. Now, before anyone decides that it’s insane to even ask such a question, fear not. Sunset review is not a sign that there is anything strange going on. It’s something that applies to all state agencies.
In case you have no idea what the Sunset Advisory Commission is (don’t worry, very few people do), here’s what their website homepage, (www.sunset.state.tx.us) says they do:
“The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years. The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities.”
It’s that last part that caught my attention. I’m curious what, if any, “new and innovative changes” are being discussed to improve the operations and activities of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
According to the Commission’s website, the Board is “under review” along withthe rest of TDCJ, from September, 2011 through March or April of 2012. The Commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. I will be looking more closely at the input they receive, if any, more closely in the weeks to come. To kick off the sunset process, the BPP has recently released its “Self Evaluation Report”, and I printed and bound my copy of said report yesterday. Although I have not yet had the time to read the report thoroughly, I am already really glad I took the time to print it. As I see it, the more information I have about every single aspect of the Texas prison and parole system, the better I am able to do my job representing inmates who seek parole.
Here’s a few of the major points that I’ve gleaned thus far:
1. The Board reviewed over 78,000 people for parole, and nearly 19,000 people for Discretionary Mandatory Supervision in the past year. These two groups are not mutually exclusive, and the number of reviews in both categories is slightly higher than in recent years.
2. The percentage of inmates who received a favorable vote in both parole and discretionary mandatory supervision cases was approximately 1% higher than the previous year.
2. The Board also reviewed approximately 29,000 parole revocation cases, and considered modification of parolee special conditions in approximately 86,000 instances, all in one year.
I was particularly interested in the Board’s description of some of the ongoing litigation involving parole rules and policies, and a couple of these areas provide fertile ground for future blog posts.
You can expect to see follow up blog posts as the sunset review process takes place. Although the ongoing “sunset review” process is almost certainly not going to result in a recommendation that the Board be abolished, there could very well be some recommendations for improvement of the processes, policies, and means of performing its very important function within the state’s criminal justice system. I’ll be watching everything carefully, and it ought to be an interesting process.