“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
When I meet prospective client in prison, many of them simply assume I will be given a copy of all documents that the Parole Board will have in their file when reviewing the inmate for parole. This is a logical assumption. Unfortunately, it is also incorrect.
The Texas Parole Board will not release a single document from its parole file to any offender or his attorney. Ever. This has always astounded me, from the day I worked on my first parole file all the way through today. Secrecy on the part of governmental entities, except in the case of national security concerns, is never a good thing.
The purported reason why nothing gets released is to maintain the integrity of the Parole Board’s internal procedures. This explanation does not overcome the very real need for the inmate and his attorney to verify that the information relied upon by the board is accurate and complete. The courts have consistently held that one does not have a constitutional right to make parole. However, there is still a very real need to make sure that the integrity of the Board, and the process used, is not compromised.
If the goal is to make the best decisions possible about who should be given parole and who must be denied, the more complete and accurate the information is within the offenders’ files, the more information that is vetted and confirmed, the better. Therefore, unless the people of the state of Texas are ready to blindly trust these extremely important parole decisions to a secret body that is managed in secret, the change must come.
There is a scandal brewing right now over the indictment of Pamela Freeman, the Huntsville Parole Commissioner. I will provide some insights into that whole mess in a separate blog post in the near future. However, for now, suffice it to say that Ms. Freeman would likely never have even dared to place false information into the offenders’ files if she knew that that same information could be reviewed by the offenders and/or their attorneys. It’s just that simple.
Perhaps John F. Kennedy said it best…
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy