In Texas, all prisoners placed on parole after completing their minimum prison sentences remain under court supervision. To receive parole status, a prisoner must agree to obey certain conditions set up by the court, such as employment, community service and meetings with his parole officer. When a Texas parolee is deemed to have committed a parole violation, law enforcement issues a Blue Warrant, a document traditionally enclosed in a blue jacket that calls for the arrest of the violator.
In Texas, Blue Warrants are issued whenever a parole officer charges a parolee with a technical violation of his parole. These arrest warrants may be issued for committing another criminal offense, carrying a gun or simply not showing up for scheduled meetings with the parole officer. A parolee who is arrested under a Blue Warrant may be held in jail until a judge decides his fate. These warrants may also be used to arrest a parolee headed for more trouble, by imposing a few days of "jail therapy" to cool his heels and re-examine his choices.
Parolees who are arrested under a Blue Warrant have the right to a revocation hearing, but do not qualify for bail. Parolees have limited rights to legal representation depending on the reason for the issuance of the Blue Warrant, but it is not always possible for lawyers to get parole re-instated for their clients. They are permitted to call witnesses on their own behalf and to cross-examine witnesses testifying against them at a parole revocation hearing.
Blue Warrant hearings have three potential outcomes: reinstatement of parole, residence in a halfway house, intermediate changes to the conditions of parole terms, or parole revocation. If parole is revoked, the parolee returns to prison to serve out her maximum sentence. Parole may be revoked for inmates who should never have been released on parole because they are flight risks or they threatened witnesses and court officials. It may also be revoked for parolees who committed another crime while on parole, or who are deemed a "danger to society" based on evidence of bad conduct while on parole.
Blue Warrant arrests increased by 43 percent, between July 2005 and January 2007, according to the Texas Association of Counties' County Information Project. Local sheriffs and jail administrators have criticized the use of Blue Warrants intended for "jail therapy," not parole revocation. Law enforcement officials reason that using Blue Warrant arrests for these parolees take up bed space in jails that could better be used for hardened criminals. Failed legislation in Texas would have allowed officers the discretion when to arrest violent or non-violent parole violators.
The Texas Sheriffs Association endorsed a bill to curtail jail overcrowding by allowing judges to issue bonds or request bail for Blue Warrant parolees. In 2007, as recorded in the House Research Organization Focus Report, Governor Perry vetoed that bill, contending that it would allow the state's top 10 fugitives to be eligible for bail while awaiting parole hearings. The 82nd session of the Texas State Legislature, which convenes in January 2011, is set to revisit some of these issues.