Ankle monitors and monthly office visits cannot be used as substitutes for the actual supervision of parolees
On December 18, Click2Houston did a story on five parolees in Houston who committed murders after cutting off their ankle monitors. The story quite simply shows how badly the Texas parole system is broken.
When parole authorities depend on ankle monitors and
monthly office visits for the supervision of parolees, in effect the
parolees are not being supervised at all. The only thing an office visit
will tell a parole officer is that his parolee is still around. And the only
thing an ankle monitor will reveal is the parolee’s location. He could be
burglarizing, robbing and murdering people while wearing his ankle monitor and
the parole authorities wouldn’t know what he was up to.
Obviously, when a parolee tampers with his ankle monitor the authorities can surmise he’s up to no good. But what is he doing and catching him is something else.
The five murdering parolees so angered Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo that he publicly vowed that his police officers would go after parole violators. But that should be the job of parole officers.
Parole officers were obviously asleep on the job in the
Brandon Ledford case. Ledford, 20, who was doing time in prison for a
parole violation, was released on October 9 to another parole. He should
never have been released in the first place because there was a Galveston
murder warrant outstanding for him. Ledford was wanted for shooting an
unarmed security guard at the San Luis Resort in April 2017. The parole
authorities should have called the cops immediately when he appeared at their
office upon his release as required by his parole. Instead, this murderer
floated around on unsupervised parole for about 10 weeks before he was caught
by Rosenberg cops on December 13 when he showed up at the parole office for his
The Texas parole system requires a complete overhaul.
First and foremost, the primary responsibility of parole officers is to protect society from parolees like the five murderers who cut off their ankle monitors. They are also responsible for helping parolees to successfully complete their parole.
There was a time not all that long ago when the sheriffs of rural Texas counties also served officially as parole officers. But parole officers must at times wear the hat of a social worker and those sheriffs were not prepared or willing to do that. A parole system requires the services of parole officers who can perform both social work and law enforcement duties while supervising inmates that have been released from prison.
It must be noted that parolees are not offenders on probation. Parolees are convicted felons who have been released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the free world.
Parole officers must be classified as peace officers so they can arrest parolees on the spot. Being a parole officer is no job for sissy social workers. It takes tough men and women who are not afraid to contact their parolees in high crime neighborhoods and bust them if that becomes necessary for the protection of society.
The Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm system must be changed, requiring parole officers to work late evenings and early nights, and on weekends. Parolees do not restrict their activities to the daylight hours on weekdays.
Except for special circumstances, parole officers can spend only one day a week in the office. That’s when they can do the required paper work and see the parolees they have ordered in for an office visit or those parolees who come in voluntarily. Field visits must take the place of those worthless mandatory office visits.
Only one day of the week should be devoted to daytime field visits. That’s when the parole officer can call on the parolee’s employer and see the parolee on the job. The rest of the work week should be during the evenings when the parole officer can see the parolee at home or at his hangouts if he can find out where they are. Weekend duty can be scheduled for every other weekend unless the parole officer wants to work every weekend.
Field visits must be conducted on a surprise basis. No more of this “Joe, I’ll see you at your house on Wednesday at 2 pm” shit. Scheduled visits allow the parolee who is using drugs or committing other crimes to clean up his act. And peeing in a drug test container must also be done on a surprise basis, and it must be eyeballed by the parole officer to prevent any urine substitution.
Parolees should be seen in the field at least once every six weeks or more often if necessary. That requires manageable caseloads of no more than 60 parolees. Too many parolees? Not for a competent and conscientious parole officer.
There are some exceptional prison inmates who can be released on parole without any supervision, provided they will keep the parole office informed of any residence changes. However, the vast majority of parolees will require strict supervision in order to prevent or detect any criminal activities.
It is important to note that there is much more to parole and to being a parole officer than what has been covered here.
The way an effective parole system must be administered requires much more funding than the legislature is appropriating now. But then, what is the protection of society worth?
Howie: If there was a murder warrant on Brandon Ledford at the time he was released from prison, don’t blame his parole officer for not having him arrested at his first visit. The Institutional Division (the prison system) should have checked before they turned him loose. And the Galveston County DA should have put a detainer on him while he was in prison. Maybe Galveston County didn’t want him to get credit on a possible murder sentence while he was in TDC so they didn’t file a detainer. Or maybe Galveston County and TDC just screwed up, but it wasn’t the fault of the parole division.
I hate the parole board and parole division. Every time I deal with them, i have to send my suit to the cleaners and shower for a half hour to get the dirt off because they tend to be so slimy. But what’s right’s right and what’s wrong’s wrong.
We have a detainer system simply to prevent people from being released while they have open warrants. If the Galveston County authorities don’t want to use the system, blame them for him being turned loose with an open murder warrant. If TDC didn’t honor the detainer or didn’t check NCIC for open warrants before letting him go, blame TDC. Don’t put it on the parole division.
Howie Katz says
Tom, unless Texas is an exception to the rule, parole officers are supposed to make a pre-parole investigation before an inmate can be released on parole. A thorough investigation should have revealed there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Ledford.
Bob Walsh says
There are, in general terms, two levels of safety-security. One is pretend security. One is real security. Actual, honest-to-god public safety-security programs are either expensive, inconvenient or both. You can NOT supervise a parolee by calling him at home once a month and making sure he is there and not passed out drunk. People have to get off their asses and do home visits, work visits, SURPRISE visits at odd hours and on weekends and holidays if you want to know what is REALLY going on. Conditional release is a risk. Once in a while it will go bad. That is not an excuse to make it a crap shoot. Technology, including ankle monitors, is fine, great even. It is, however, mostly an investigative tool after the fact or a deterrent to somebody what actually wants to be deterred. It is not a panacea. Doing it RIGHT requires a reasonable case load, personal visits and time out of the office. All of this is inconvenient and expensive. PRETENDING you can do the job properly without it is a lie.
Trey Rusk says
My experiences in dealing with parole officers as a peace officer was never good or productive. I considered them to be lazy and seemingly unconcerned about their parolees. That being said, I’m sure the legislature will adopt some feel good laws to deal with the parole problem, but I wouldn’t look for much funding.
Texas will never spend money on prisoners/parolees. Senator Whitmire has been the head of the Criminal Justice Committee for a couple of decades and nothing has changed. A death row inmate even called him at home with an contraband cell phone several years ago. The prisons are still full of contraband cell phones and no telling what else. Who do you think is bringing them in? Nobody cares about TDCJ except maybe the crime victims’ families. The pay is so lousy that the openings stay in the double digits. If TDCJ were to make parole officers State Peace Officers with the same training, pay, take home rides and background checks the system would improve. A parole officer is not an 8 to 5 job and ankle monitors are only as good as the person supervising the parolee.
As the system goes now, nobody in this state should feel safe.
howie katz says
Texas claims and Senator Whitmire brags that only 21 percent of parolees are returned to prison within three years following release. That’s simply amazing when the rest of the states with much better parole systems report a parole failure rate of about 50 percent.
Actually 21 percent is nothing to brag about because it shows that Texas parole officers are simply not aware that their parolees are committing crimes or violating important conditions of parole … or that they just don’t give a rat’s ass. If the truth be known, about 30 percent of Texas parolees are probably committing crimes they’re not getting caught for. If Senator Whitmire believes those phony Texas parole success stats, he must still believe in the tooth fairy.