Stuck In Limbo, Thousands Of Paroled Texas Prisoners Can't Leave Lockup

Jun 1, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 8:59 am

From Texas Standard:

The pandemic has had an outsized affect on Texas prisons. Almost 4,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and 43 people in the system have died – that includes prison staff and inmates.

But Dallas Morning News investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy recently reported that thousands of prisoners who have been approved for parole can't leave lockup, and they're concerned for their health.

McGaughy told Texas Standard host David Brown on Friday that prisoners are required to complete reentry programs like life skills training or substance abuse treatment while still in lockup, before they can leave. But because of the spread of the coronavirus in Texas prisons, many are asking to complete those programs outside of prison.

"These inmates feel like it would be much safer for them to complete those courses on the outside instead of sitting in their cells doing workbooks, and potentially being exposed to the virus," she said.

State officials have not agreed to releasing these paroled prisoners. What's more, many can't even start reentry programs because dozens of Texas prisons are still on lockdown, and transfers between prisons are prohibited right now. Often, prisoners need to be transferred to a different facility for their reentry programs.

"They can't even begin the program that they need to complete to get out," McGaughy said

Texas has been more strict than other jurisdictions on the matter. Some states have let parolees complete their reentry programs at home. The federal government has released about 3,000 inmates for home confinement.

Conservative politicians in Texas argue that releasing them could threaten public safety. Advocates for release say prisoners who are already on parole should be able to complete their reentry programs on the outside.

Web story by Caroline Covington.

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