Aaron is one of about 650 current Texas prisoners sentenced as juveniles to terms of 35 years or more for non-homicide offenses. Current policies require that anyone convicted of a violent offense must serve one half of their sentence before first parole review.
It makes no difference if, like Aaron, one has a great record as a prisoner and has earned certificates in numerous programs. Aaron got 50 years for taking the law into his own hands at age 17, and doing something many have no problem with…..though it was definitely against the law. He shot and injured the guy who murdered his life long friend. In an immoral twist of justice, the killer was sentenced to 30 years. It is safe to assume that if Aaron could have afforded a legal team like Ken Paxton he would have received a more appropriate, and shorter sentence. But, instead of being a free man after 20 years in prison the TDCJ website says he will be parole eligible on Jan 6, 2023.
Even if Aaron had a prior record that indicated serious problems as a juvenile, and a pattern of bad choices, he still should not have received such a long sentence. In reality, his prior record was Driving Without a Seat Belt and Driving Too Slow. It is thus safe to conclude that his sentence was more about scoring political points than about his threat to public safety. It is well known that teenage boys often make poor choices…….no surprise really, because they are not mature, are not thinking about consequences, and often act impulsively. That’s why youths have none of the adult rights until they are 18 (except to be treated as one by a jury). Even that age, as neuro science has confirmed, is questionable since male brains don’t really mature till their mid-twenties. However, when he got sentenced, the idea of “tough on crime” encouraged prosecutors to be extremely harsh. Had he been arrested in Travis County instead of Tarrant County, he would, very likely, have received a more age appropriate sentence.
This legislative session, lawmakers in Austin will be considering Senate Bill 556 and House Bill1274. Both bills offer an earlier chance for parole to men like Aaron. The bills state that parole consideration be given after half the sentence is served, or twenty years, whichever is less. Approval of this bill would give Aaron a parole review this year. While I consider both bills totally inadequate….twenty years for a teenager for a first offense (non homicide)?…….they represent the risk averse steps lawmakers are comfortable with. In view of that I recommend everyone support them.
In order for each bill to be considered by the full House or Senate, they must be approved at the committee level. Therefore I highly recommend that you send letters to all the members of these two committees. To get their contact info just google Texas Senate/House Members. Call them as well, and encourage your friends to do the same.
Here are their names.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee SB556
CHAIR John Whitmire
VICE-CHAIR Joan Huffman
MEMBERS: Brian Birdwell, Konni Burton, Brandon Creighton, Sylvia R. Garcia, Bryan Hughes, José Menéndez, Charles Perry
House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee HB1274
CHAIR Joe Moody
VICE-CHAIR Todd Hunter
Members: Terry Canales, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Cole Hefner, Mike Lang, Terry Wilson
A flood of support for these bills will increase their chance for passage. SO, DO NOT HESITATE…..TAKE ACTION NOW!!!!. Do it for Aaron, and all other prisoners who deserve, and have earned, a second chance at freedom and re-unification with their family and friends.
If you have time to help in other ways, let me know.