The COVID-19 outbreak has affected every part of life, including the jail and prison systems throughout the country. However, social distancing in overcrowded penitentiaries makes it impossible to remain six feet apart from others, which is why the coronavirus has devasted the inmate population in every state, especially Texas.
According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) reports, at least 84 state inmates have passed away after being infected with COVID-19, which is the second highest among prisons across the nation. Out of the 131,100 inmates in Texas state prisons, approximately 9,500 have tested positive for the virus.
While other states have granted early release, parole, or home confinement to inmates who were convicted of non-violent offenses, are nearing the end of their sentence, are at least 60 years of age, or have been diagnosed with health issues compromised by the coronavirus, Texas has yet to institute such practices. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles - whose members are governor-appointed – have the authority to grant early release; however, both Gov. Greg Abbott and the board remain adamant about banning the release of dangerous felons from state jail since late March.
Back in May, tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits were issued to state prisons throughout Texas. A few weeks later, the governor suspended all in-person visits to jails to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The only way the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles can approve early parole release for prisoners who have been diagnosed with a disability, mental illness, terminal illness, or those who need long-term medical care. However, only 76 inmates – less than three percent of inmates referred to the board – were approved for release.
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition claims at least 79,000 prisoners in the state are eligible for parole. In fact, tens of thousands of inmates were granted parole after completing education or rehabilitation programs. Yet, because these programs have been inactivity due to the pandemic, these inmates remained behind bars.
Despite the reluctance of the governor and the board to grant early parole or release to inmates affected by the outbreak, the prison population in Texas did decrease. This is because county jails stopped taking in new inmates in April.
However, TDCJ began accepted inmates from county jails once again, but on a limited basis. Mass testing is the main reason behind this decision.
If you or a loved one has been recently arrested, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side during this trying time is the best opportunity to avoid conviction or serving any jail or prison sentence. At Goza & Carreras, Attorneys at Law, we are committed to guiding you throughout the complexities of the criminal justice process, while protecting your rights, freedom, and future.
To learn more about our personalized legal solutions, contact our Fort Worth firm today at (817) 402-2188 and request a free consultation. Hablamos español.