Former Parole Board member working way back up ladder with TDCJ
Dan Guerra has climbed more than one ladder during his 28 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Board of Pardons and Paroles. He climbed to what he considers to be the top of his profession with the Parole Board before retiring in August 2004 as a parole commissioner.
But he didn’t stop there. In August 2005, Guerra, 53, returned to TDCJ, this time rejoining the agency’s Victim Services Division. He now works as a mediator between crime victims and offenders. But his aim is to climb again.
|Victim Services mediator Dan Guerra awaits witnesses to an execution in a conference room in Huntsville. Guerra originated the process through which victim family members and friends view an execution and recently returned to the job on a temporary basis.
Photo by David Nunnelee
“If the good Lord is willing, maybe I will end my second career as a parole commissioner,” Guerra said. “Next to Victim Services, I really enjoyed that job.”
So far, Guerra has held eight different jobs with TDCJ and five with the Parole Board. He started his career in 1977 as a parole officer in Victoria. Earlier, while majoring in social work at UT-Pan American University in Edinburg, he worked as a volunteer at a mental health crisis center in McAllen and as a drug counselor for treatment programs in Edinburg and San Antonio.
Guerra spent five years as a parole officer, and in 1982 was invited to be part of Texas’ first and only parole officer exchange program with the state of New York. He was promoted in September 1982 to parole analyst, and two years later joined the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole as its family information coordinator in Austin.
Working directly for the Parole Board chairman, his new job was to act as liaison between inmates, their families, state officials, and the Parole Board. He also served as the agency liaison for victims and their families prior to the creation of the Victim Services Office.
Guerra moved to TDCJ’s Parole Division in January 1991 as an ombudsman and public information officer. A year later, he was named the division’s victim liaison, a position in which he assisted victims, state officials, and divisional staff with inmate-related information. He also processed protest letters to Parole Board members and coordinated and conducted victim sensitivity training for criminal justice personnel and the public, to include crime victims.
Guerra moved up within the Victim Services Division in September 1993 when he became its coordinator of training, operations and program implementation. He was named the division’s assistant director in September 1994.
While with Victim Services, Guerra initiated the process through which victim witnesses are prepared to view an execution. He recently returned to that role on a temporary basis.
“I don’t think I would have lasted in the agency if not for working in Victim Services,” he said. “I really feel like I make a difference when working with victims of crime, especially during executions.”
Gov. Rick Perry, in August 2001, appointed Guerra to the Board of Pardons and Paroles as one of 18 members. For the next three years - first in Amarillo, and later in Gatesville - he voted on which prisoners were to be released on parole or discretionary mandatory supervision and set the conditions of their release. He also voted on revocation proceedings and recommended the resolution of clemency matters to the governor. In December 2003, Guerra was appointed to the Crime Victim Services Advisory Council by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
With the reorganization of the Board of Pardons and Paroles in early 2004, Guerra went from being a Parole Board member appointed by the governor to one of 12 Parole Board commissioners employed by the Parole Board’s presiding officer. Except for not being involved in clemency matters, his responsibilities as a Parole Board commissioner were much as they were when he was a member.
Guerra took a year off after retiring and bought a house about 30 miles outside of Austin. He says he plans to work until he’s 62 and enjoy each day on the job regardless of where his second career path leads.
“I’ve always encouraged staff and personal friends to follow their career goals and be happy with what path you choose,” he said. “I remember saying years ago that my goal was to be a Parole Board member before I retired. I did that. This time around, I plan to go as far as my ability can take me. My motto is to live life with no regrets.”
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