Parole Division section warrants attention of violators
Troy Fox doesn’t book the bad guys or put them in the pen. But in the interest of public safety, his office does issue the warrants to return Texas parolees to custody when they are suspected of having violated the terms of their release.
|Mary Ann Jones retrieves a request for warrant information from a teletype machine while her colleague in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS) Unit, Larry D. Yarbrough, inputs data into the system for use by law enforcement officers. Employees of the TLETS Unit must respond to warrant information requests within 10 minutes.
Photo by David Nunnelee
Fox is director of the Parole Division’s Warrants Section that is staffed by approximately 100 employees.
The section is primarily responsible for the issuance, confirmation and cancellation or withdrawal of pre-revocation warrants. But it’s also responsible for such things as coordinating the extradition of parole violators from other states and tracking the time offenders are held in county jails on pre-revocation warrants to ensure that the case is disposed of within the time limits prescribed by law. Further, the section’s Time Credit Unit calculates the amount of time an offender should be credited with while in custody on a pre-revocation warrant while still another unit attempts to locate absconded offenders with outstanding active warrants.
“Most people believe that the Warrants Section only issues, confirms and withdraws warrants, but it’s more complex than that,” said Fox, a 29-year veteran of TDCJ. “The Warrants Section has an important role in the protection of society. Offenders under administrative release are expected to abide by the rules and conditions of the supervision imposed by the Parole Board, and when they fail to do so, they compromise public safety.”
On average, the Warrants Sections issues approximately 100 pre-revocation warrants a day. Individual parole officers request most of the warrants, but halfway houses can also file violation reports requesting the arrest of former prisoners. The section also routinely receives alleged absconder alerts from the electronic monitoring and Global Position Satellite vendors that track certain parolees.
All pre-revocation warrant requests are funneled through the Command Center which operates around the clock in conjunction with the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System Unit which responds to requests for warrant information from law enforcement officers and maintains wanted persons information.
“Whether it’s a law enforcement official confirming a warrant at 3 a.m. or an electronic monitoring alert received, our staff is here to respond 24 hours a day,” said Leslie Folsom, assistant director of the Warrants Section. “We will call offenders in the middle of the night to investigate alerts.”
A request for an arrest warrant from a parole officer must be co-signed by a supervisor. But even then, it is up to Command Center analysts in Austin and regional jail supervisors around the state to decide if the request is justified. If a request is denied, the officer is instructed to use alternative sanctions in the case. A Violation Action Grid was introduced a few years ago to assist officers in determining appropriate alternative actions.
“Texas is noted for its progressive sanctions system,” Fox said. “If offenders violate their supervision, they doesn’t automatically get thrown in jail. They may have some sanctions to do. They may have to attend some counseling or they may have to go on electronic monitoring. Or they may have to go to an intermediate sanction facility.”
Another alternative to a warrant being issued is to hold a summons hearing before a Parole Board hearings officer. In that case, the offender is brought to the parole office, informed of the day and time of hearing, and then sent home. Only if the offender is found in violation of his parole at the conclusion of the hearing is he arrested and jailed. Approximately 76,000 offenders are currently under parole supervision in Texas.
“The Legislature last session expanded our use of summons processing so we wouldn’t have so many people locked up in county jails,” Fox said. “And it’s been successful so far. The easiest thing to do is to lock somebody up. But in today’s world of state budget constraints, we take every opportunity we can to avoid re-incarcerating that offender. Every effort is made to seek progressive sanctions. It means less time incarcerated in the county jails, which means less cost to taxpayers while still serving public safety.”
TDCJ warrants never expire. But every month, the Warrants Section must validate with the Texas Department of Public Safety all of the outstanding warrants it has listed on the Texas Crime Information Computer system so as to cleanse the system of invalid warrants.
“It keeps the system working most efficiently,” Fox said.
Fox said his section holds offenders accountable for their actions in the community following their release.
“I look at it as a significant responsibly,” Fox said. “Public safety is number one around here. When you have administratively-released prisoners that have conditions and rules to abide by and choose not to, there has to be a mechanism for getting them back to direct supervision or getting them removed from society so they can have a revocation hearing. That is tantamount to public safety. And that is what we do.”