Texas Blue Warrants
Before Texas prisoners are placed on parole, they must first complete a minimum recommended jail sentence and gain approval for release from the parole board. In order to receive parole, potential parolees must agree to certain conditions in order to gain parole: 1. They will remain under court supervision, which means 2. they must meet regularly with their assigned parole officers. 3. They must complete a specified number of hours of community service. 4. They must obtain gainful employment. In Texas, parole violations lead to a judge issuing a Blue Warrant that calls for the arrest of the parole violator.
What Are Blue Warrants?
Blue Warrants are called "blue" warrants because, traditionally, they were issued in a blue jacket. They are usually issued whenever a parolee has been charged with a technical violation of parole by his or her parole officer. Technical violations include additional criminal offenses and failure to attend required meetings with the parole officer. In either of these 2 cases, the parolee will be arrested under the Blue Warrant and held until the Judge determines the punishment for violating his or her parole. Blue Warrants can also be used to give "jail therapy" to a parolee who's headed for trouble, but hasn't actually violated parole yet. Jail therapy is meant to give the parolee a few days to chill out and re-examine the alternatives to his or her current path.
What Happens When a Blue Warrant Is Issued?
When parolees are arrested und a Blue Warrant, they are entitled to a preliminary hearing. They also have the right to a revocation hearing, but not to bail. These parolees are allowed a written notice of the violations they allegedly committed and the evidence to back up the allegations. At the hearing, they can call defense witnesses and cross examine prosecution witnesses. Their rights to representation is limited, however, and even then parole, revocation lawyers may or may not be able to reduce the punishment and get parole re-instated. It all depends on the violation(s) that caused the Blue Warrant to be issued in the first place.
Blue Warrant Hearings
There are 3 potential outcomes to a Blue Warrant hearing. First, the parole gets re-instated. Second, the parolee gets assigned to a halfway house or is given other intermediate changes to the terms of his or her parole. Finally the parole is revoked and the parolee is returned to prison to serve out the remainder of the sentence. Reasons for revocation of parole include: 1. The prisoner should never have gotten parole in the first place, 2. The parolee committed another crime while out on parole, or 3.the parolee's actions while on parole cause him to be considered a "danger to society."
Blue Warrant arrests jumped 43% between 2001 and 2005, which led to an increase in the inmate population in county jails across Texas. Local sheriffs, in charge of the overcrowded local jails, complained that Texas State parole officers were misusing Blue Warrants for "jail therapy" causing overpopulation in the county jails with "jail therapy" parolees taking up valuable bed space. The local sheriffs contended that the non-violent parolees who had committed only minor parole infractions should be allowed to be released on bail while awaiting their parole hearings. They also contended that those parolees with only minor infractions could end up losing their jobs, which could lead to a more crucial parole violation.
The Texas Sheriffs Association endorsed a bill, which GovernorRickl Perry vetoed in 2007, which would have allowed judges to issue bonds or bail requests for Blue Warrant parolees. The reasoning for his veto was that Texas' top 10 fugitives (who were all Blue Warrant violators at the time) would have been eligible for bail while awaiting their parole hearings. Since at least some of the Blue Warrant parolees are considered flight risks, this law is not likely to be modified any time soon.