One Texas state prisoner who used a parole consultant is Jon Buice, who was 17 years old when he stabbed Paul Broussard, 27, to death in a high-profile July 4, 1991 gay bashing incident that involved him and nine other assailants. Buice paid former state Representative Allen Pace $6,000 to represent him before the Parole Board. Pace served five years as chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee before becoming a parole consultant; he earned $280,000 for representing 85 parole candidates in 2007.
“You got a former chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee that’s got a client list yea-long. I mean Allen Pace – you can’t tell me just looking at it on the surface that that certainly has its advantages,” said Andy Kahan, head of the City of Houston’s crime victims assistance office, who is also affiliated with Justice for All, a viciously reactionary violent crime victims advocacy group.
Kahan, a former Texas parole officer, lost his job after questionable charges were found on his expense account. After he became the director of Houston’s crime victims’ assistance office, he was accused of sexual misconduct involving a female crime victim. According to the Houston Press, the mayor’s office acknowledged there had been misconduct by Kahan, which had been “dealt with ... sternly.”
Justice for All has also engaged in questionable activities. Elected state district judges give the organization grants from their discretionary crime victims’ funds, in exchange for political endorsements. The funds come from fees paid by criminal defendants; additional funding is received from the state. It seems that Justice for All wants to make money off the criminal justice system, too ... they just don’t want anyone else to do so on behalf of prisoners.
Buice wasn’t released despite his use of a paid parole consultant. So what’s Kahan’s complaint? Buice is being allowed to apply for parole too often.
“There’s something that doesn’t pass the smell test,” Kahan said about the fact that Buice has been reviewed for parole four times in nine years.
Kahan sees problems with other parole consultants as well. For example, Dan Lang, a former Parole Board member, made $214,700 for parole consultations in 2007. Alfred Leal, the husband of former Parole Board member Mary Leal, made $25,200 representing seven prisoners last year.
“They know the players. They know who’s who. You know, they know what to look for, so obviously it gives them a tremendous inside edge,” Kahan remarked. Then again, if the process is legal – which it is – then what’s the problem?
Lang stated that parole consultants assist overworked parole board members who don’t have enough time to thoroughly review each prisoner’s case. In fiscal year 2006, the overall parole grant rate in Texas was a paltry 26.26%.
“They’re looking for good, safe parolees. And I think, in my position, I help them find people,” said Lang, emphasizing that it is legal for a former Board member to become a parole consultant after a two-year waiting period. He should know. The state law that required former Board members to wait 10 years before representing prisoners at parole hearings was reduced to two years in 2003, with Lang’s assistance.
The larger question, unaddressed by Kahan or the mainstream media, is why so many Texas prisoners feel the need to spend thousands of dollars on parole consultants.
The Texas parole system is broken; it is secretive, arbitrary, capricious and subject to political whims and public pressure. No Texas prisoner knows if or when he or she will be granted parole. An open, transparent system with clear requirements and expectations so prisoners are informed as to what is needed to make parole would eliminate the real or perceived need for parole consultants.
Until that happens, however, paid parole consultants fill a needed, and lucrative, niche in Texas’ criminal justice system.
Sources: www.click2houston.com, The Prison Show on Radio Station KPFT, Houston Press
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