The Problems With Using 2D (Nature of The Offense) As a Reason For Parole Denial

Many of the prisoners held in TDCJ for long periods of time are people who are convicted of what we would all likely agree are serious offenses.  For these people, making parole can be quite a challenge.  One of the most legitimate complaints I have heard over the years from prisoners is that the reason given for their denial “2D” seems inappropriate and unfair.  I must admit, from a logical standpoint, such a complaint seems entirely justified.  I hope this blog post will explain why 2D is not a very credible or valid reason for denying one’s parole, and using it only serves to further undermine people’s faith in the fairness of the parole system.

When the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles makes a decision to deny a person parole, the law requires them to give a reason or reasons for the decision.  Because of the sheer volume of files at the Board, they often do not give prisoners any detailed guidance as to why they did not make parole.  Instead, the Board picks one or more reasons from a pre-ordained list of choices that are coded as follows:

1D Criminal History

2D Nature of Offense

3D Drug or Alcohol Involvement

4D Institutional Adjustment

5D Adjustment During Periods of Supervision

6D Participation in TDCJ-CID Proposed or Specialized Programs

7D Time Served

8D Felony Offense (while incarcerated)

9D This is Applicable To Mandatory Supervision Only

10D Other (provide written details)

There are problems with using many of these pre-scripted responses, and an analysis of all of them is certainly worthwhile.  However, this post will focus on 2D only.  Perhaps I will compose blog posts in the future about some of the others.

On the written notice of parole panel decisions that is supposed to be given to all inmates following a Board decision, whenever 2D is listed, alone or in combination with other reasons, it looks something like this:

2D      The record indicates that the inmate committed one or more violent criminal acts indicating a conscious disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others; or the instant offense or pattern of criminal activity has elements of brutality, violence, or conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability such that the inmate poses a continuing threat to public safety; or the record indicates use of a weapon.

The First Problem With Reason 2D

The first and most obvious problem with the content of 2D is that the word “or” is used six times.  Six!  Now, I have always considered myself pretty good at reading and writing, and I had to scratch my head in bewilderment the first time I read the definition of a 2D denial.  It’s so vague that, out of respect for the inmates, and the English language itself, they need to ask themselves how it is possible that this is acceptable to anyone.

I’ll never understand why they used “or” so many times.  If I told you I was right or left handed, am I saying anything at all?  If I said I’m right or left handed and I like basketball or football, does that make things any more clear?    Prisoners and their families deserve better!

The Second Problem With Reason 2D

The second problem with 2D is that it references “one or more violent criminal acts indicating a conscious disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others.  The Texas Penal Code references two broad classes of crimes called “Crimes Against Persons” and “Crimes Against Property”.  Most crime are, by definition, intentional.  Intentional crimes involve, by definition, a conscious disregard for other people’s rights, including their lives, safety, or property.    Therefore, almost every offense under Texas law that landed a person in prison in the first place could later become the sole basis for denial of one’s parole under 2D.

The Third Problem With Reason 2D

The third, and perhaps most fundamental problem with using Reason 2D in Texas Parole involves a myopic focus on the crime itself, rather than on the person presently under consideration, and such a narrow focus gives no regard to the legislature’s stated parole eligibility dates themselves and the part of the Board’s mission devoted to the rehabilitation of offenders.  If we are going to use the offense itself as the basis for not letting a person out of prison, we need to see a dramatic limitation of such a reason not to parole someone, because prisoner rehabilitation is blatantly disregarded any time 2D is used.

As many inmates have said to me over the years, nobody can change what happened in the past when a crime was committed.  Instead, what many of the most remorseful and honorable inmates try to do is faithfully and consistently show everyone that the person who committed the crime is not the same person as the person under consideration.

Another point that bears consideration is that the penalty (the number of years in prison) was selected or blessed by the Judge, with the full knowledge of when the inmate would become eligible for parole. Therefore, one could make a very strong argument that the “nature of the offense” was already fully taken into consideration at the time of the conviction and sentencing.

Since the crime itself cannot ever be changed, and if 2D is the reason given even once, why how could we logically ever believe it’s appropriate to grant parole?  After all, if the use of the weapon clause is the reason 2D is used, we can never go back and change whether or not a weapon was used.  Similarly, we can never go back and say that there was not a disregard for other people or that the act was violent.

I’m afraid that the complaints do seem justified; , in all but the most extreme and horrible of cases, 2D is just an excuse to avoid having the courage and the will to look deeper than the title of the crime and the police/prosecutor’s version of the crime itself.  Nonetheless, the Board must be willing to place the focus where it belongs; on the person who is presently incarcerated, not on what he did.  After all, in general, if he hadn’t done something bad, he wouldn’t have been sent to prison in the first place.

 

3 thoughts on “The Problems With Using 2D (Nature of The Offense) As a Reason For Parole Denial

  1. Wow. When I read the paragraphs in the parole blog on what 2D and the other offenses meant, I wish it would have been as easy to understand as your article(the one on parole eligibility). I think I already knew that 2D seemed to cover everything like you discussed, but my girlfriend has a 2D and 7D and it could hurt her come parole time.

  2. I was very interested in your blog. It has been my complaint for years. As I have been released after 10 1/2 yrs. With so many changes in technology, it has slowed down my progression. I never had been locked up before and this experience has not only traumatized me but also keeps my question as, ” To who does the judicial system protect? Their uniform or victims? “…

  3. This was well written. My son has been denied twice and this reason was used in both denials along with others that were 3 others that were also the same. I hope you will write s blog on the other codes soon.

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