The Joys of Parole

By Mike Powers

My readers recognize that even though I try to inject humor and optimism into most of my stories, the majority of them contain element s that are, at best, discouraging. Why? Because I believe we all want to think that our government works at a certain standard, particularly when it comes to how it treats it’s humblest citizens, and the level of incompetence that is documented in my stories is pretty shocking, especial l y since we are talking about keeping felons safely away from the public. The lapses in humanity and security are utterly inexcusable, and even if they weren’t, the amount of waste and graft should make any Texas taxpayer cringe in horror.

That said, one would think that being so near to a parole date would be a source of great joy. I certainly thought it would. As it turns out, the whole process of making parole has brought with it a whole new window of inexplicable red tape and insanity.

I ‘ve already written about some serious problems with the Sex Offender Treatment Program, so I’ll forego saying any more about that, although I confess it’s hard to pass up any opportunity to shed more light on this circus. Instead, I’d like to take a closer look at the Parole Division itself and the way it seems to be operating.

Let’s start with a quick historical review. You might recall that I’ve already been up for parole twice before now. The first time, I had two good parole addresses, a guaranteed job, a working vehicle, and a living family. The wise sages of the Parole Board said a three-year set off was in order despite an excellent discipline record, every class taken, and many voluntary programs completed.

Fast forward three years. I was down to one good parole address, a car I ‘d need to repair before use, and living family member s to help me out . I ‘d kept right on getting every certificate and diploma I could. Slap! Three-year set-off . Gee, thank s for the vote of confidence.

Then, with 18 months left to go on my entire 15-year sentence, the benevolent Board gave me a 9-month SOTP program. After completion, I ‘d have 3 months left “on paper “. I told you how tempted I was to tell them what they could do with their parole, but I really, truly wanted to take the program for the program’s sake, regardless of parole. After all, therapy is pretty dad-burned expensive, and I knew I needed some, even if I knew nothing else. So, here I am at the Hightower Unit. Joys of parole. If only that would have been the end of the trouble, it would have been so nice. Little did I know, it was only just beginning. With my entire family passed away, I had to find someplace to live when I paroled. God sent a friend into my life who provided a place for me to go. I submitted that address to the Board. That was about a year ago. Three weeks ago, they finally got around to checking it out, and they said, “We can’t get in touch with your sponsor.” Now, my sponsor owns his own business. He keeps office hours every day. He has a business line, a cell phone, and a fax machine. He has an e-mail address and a web site. Yet, somehow, the Parole people couldn’t locate him. Go figure. I’m glad for your sakes I’m not interested in absconding after I get out, because I’m not sure they’d ever be able to find me. As it turns out, that first address wasn’t going to fly, anyway, because the house wasn’t available any more. Imagine that. Is it hard for anyone to believe that a house can’t be held open, ready and waiting, for over a year? Of course not. So, my sponsor actually provided a second address. This one was denied, too, because, “You aren’t on the lease.” Well, OBVIOUSLY I’m not on the lease. I’m not even living there yet! I carefully explained that, yes, I wasn’t on the lease, but the current occupant would be moving out in May, and I’d be moving into the then-vacant home. “Oh. Well, resubmit the address.” So, I did. Guess what, it was denied again. This time, they said, “Bad news. It’s in a child safety zone.” There’s no schools. There’s no child cares. There’s certainly no libraries. In fact, the home is a block away from railroad tracks. I explained this to my unit parole officer. Laughing, she said, “Maybe they stop the bus on the railroad tracks.” Yes, maybe they do. Especially if the bus driver is employed by the same agency that puts TDCJ people to work. So, now I’m writing a bunch of halfway houses, trying to find someplace to live when I get out. Keep in mind that I only have 3 months left on my sentence. You’d be amazed how many halfway houses require a 6-month stay. I’m trying not to be discouraged here, friends, I really am. I have to say, though, that it becomes increasingly easy to despair. I’m angry about this, because I should be celebrating. I’m at the end of a 15-year trek through a hard wilderness. I have a better grasp of what makes me tick than I’ve ever had before. I’ve matured. I’ve reformed, and I’m excited about the start of a new life. And here I am with no place to go but right back into my cell. Congratu-freakin’-lations, Mr. Powers. Here’s your certificate. I’ve got one more opportunity in San Antonio as far as it concerns houses, and then my fate lies entirely in the hands of the managers of the half-way houses. I can only hope that they have a greater depth of work ethic than the folks I’ve come across so far in the TDCJ, because I’m not sure I can stand one more good thing to happen to me.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez