An article in the Dallas Morning News today highlights the stringent parole conditions for sex offenders. In Texas, most parolees for sex offenses are required to comply with Condition X.
What is condition X?
The most intense regulation of nearly every aspect of the parolee’s life.
From the DMN story-
Condition X determines the minutiae of their daily lives – whether they can visit a school or attend church; whether they can live with their families or in an apartment with a swimming pool; whether they can access the Internet, work at a convenience store, even whom they can date or marry.
Who cares about sex offenders?
Not all sex offenders represent the same risk to the public. Under Texas law a 20 year man who has consensual sex with a 16 year and a man who molests a 6 year old child are both registered sex offenders. Condition X is being applied to nearly all sex offenders regardless of risk to the public.
The result is that low or no risk sex offenders end up going back to prison because they can not handle the intense supervision. This leaves less prison space and parole resources for the high risk parolees. Criminal justice, jail space, and parole supervision are a limited resource. Wasting these resources may make us feel “tough on crime”, but it doesn’t make the public safer.
Due Process Problems
Another problem with Condition X is that parolees have no right to challenge the implementation of these conditions. The parole board meets without the defendant. Thankfully, recent court decisions are causing the parole board to reconsider who Condition X should, and shouldn’t apply to.
It doesn’t take much to require the sweeping restrictions of Condition X – just a majority vote of a three-person panel from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. No face-to-face hearing is held before the vote. Instead, each member individually reviews a “parole packet” with information from an institutional parole officer and prison officials, and any supporting material from the inmate’s friends and family.
The system gives “someone who is getting out on parole with sex offense stuff less due process than someone who is having their driver’s license suspended,” said Mr. Gladden, whose business card bears a picture of the Revolutionary War-era “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
Mr. Gladden and Mr. Habern are challenging that procedure in Judge Sparks’ court.
When board members consider putting a convict under Condition X, the inmate doesn’t know what evidence is presented against him and has no opportunity to respond. He can’t even be sure panel members have read his file, Judge Sparks noted.
A parole division employee testified in one case that board members spend an average of 10 to 30 minutes reviewing materials in each case.
Finally, the blogging authority on Texas criminal justice Scott Henson offers his take on Condition X.