On Monday – January 25, 2016 – I attended the 1st annual Parole Forum held at the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas. The organizations represented were the: Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA), the Region II Parole Board office, which is located in Palestine Texas, and a member from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Reentry Department gave a brief presentation.
Parole board member Michelle Skyrme actually did an excellent job fielding questions from prisoners. She was straight forward and didn’t give any false representations. WE HAVE MUCH WORK TO DO! The most significant comment Ms. Skyrme made was when a prisoner asked her, “what bearing do parole credits (“good time” and “work time”) have on your decision to grant a prisoner parole?” Her answer was that credits don’t factor into her decision at all!! This is the exact reason why we decided to start this campaign in the first place.
In Texas prisons, we have been told that in lieu of actual pay for our labor in factories and prison jobs, we would be given “good time” and “work time” credits. But, because of flawed and misleading/deceptive language in the law the Parole Board is not compelled to recognize these credits. So in essence, we have been relegated to the status of slaves!! Not only do we continue to work for free, we work to maintain a system that mistreats and oppresses us. TDCJ does not have a vested interest in aiding us in returning to our families. Remember how hard the confederate states fought to protect their slave empire? Don’t think for one minute that Texas won’t fight hard to ensure we do not tamper with the Texas Government Code 498.003 which lays out this fraudulent “good time” system. This fight is a fight worth waging as it effects ALL TEXAS PRISONERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
Jennifer Erschabek is the director of the Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA). She gave an excellent presentation at the forum. One key thing I learned is that Jennifer has the ear of many influential legislators in Austin, home of the capitol of Texas. It would behoove us to research whether we can join forces with Jennifer in a pact of mutual solidarity in order to present our case to legislators.
However, more importantly, we would like to have a representative or two on our TEAM who will be willing to go into the chambers of the State capitol and articulate our wants and needs to state legislators as well as suggest prospective law changes. As prisoners our voices are totally ignored by the legislature. No matter how intelligent I may be, I am still viewed as a filthy no good criminal in Texas. So, we desperately need free world folks to champion our cause and amplify our voices.
Comedian Steve Harvey has a very popular radio morning show which airs on a local radio station 107.3 FM in Tyler, TX. Please ask your family and friends to contact Steve Harvey via email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the following message:
“Steve Harvey, would you please help the prisoners here in Texas get paid for their labor or have “good time and “work time” actually count toward the reduction on their sentences? We need the support of the Steve Harvey Nation!!”
Please contact Pastor Freddie Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas. We need prayers and support!
All Power to the People!