Inmate Stories

When Aaron was 17, he and his lifelong friend got into an altercation with another guy who proceed to shoot and kill his friend. Months later, outside the courthouse, Aaron and the killer met again and Aaron, still overcome with sadness and rage over his friends’
death, shot and injured the killer. He had no prior record and as a 17 year old, was still immature, as are almost all youths. Normally the offense of attempted murder, that he acknowledges, carries a sentence of 20 years.  For some reason, the prosecuting attorney
alleged that Aaron was part of a gang, and thus was eligible for sentence enhancement. This permitted the prosecution to push for the much longer sentence of 50 years for “organized criminal activity”.

That is exactly what Aaron got…..50 years in prison for injuring the killer of his best friend. Paradoxically, the murderer was subsequently sentenced to 30 years.  Aaron has now been in prison for 17 years and is on a mission to change how juveniles are dealt with in the criminal justice system. In spite of the many negative influences of life in a Texas prison, he remains committed to changing how the system deals with the thousands of youth who are locked up…..especially those first time offenders with very long sentences. He has researched the evidence about how young people don’t really mature, physically, emotionally or psychologically till their mid twenties. He contends that such knowledge needs to be 
considering in how youth are dealt with by the “system”. He notes that the very immaturity of youth makes them especially amenable to change, and that should be considered as a mitigating factor during the sentencing process. He fully admits to being guilty of the crime with which he was charged. he believes he was rightfully convicted and wrongfully sentenced. His goal is to leave prison as a better, and wiser, person he was than when he entered as well as to change how the system deals with juveniles.

He has petitioned the governor for clemency and believes Texas law should be changed to allow for all juveniles with excessive sentences to have their sentences reviewed.  There are many more stories like this one that should make folks think about how the criminal justice system can be improved. It is possible for those charged with crimes to be treated fairly and effectively, at far less cost to society and the families of all those impacted by crime.

Jerry was sentenced to life in prison as an 18 year old, under the “law of Parties”. While he had no prior record, he did drive his friend 
to a convenience store, who then proceeded to kill the attendant.  Jerry got a life sentence on a charge of murder. The shooter, 17 at the
time, will be eligible for parole earlier than Jerry, because of the age difference. Jerry believes, with many others, that the “law of parties” is unduly harsh and merits revision. Here is a piece he wrote about changes he believes need to be made concerning parole.
Current parole laws:
“Non-violent/ non-aggravated crimes”
-These are not contained in article 42.12 P 3 (g) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (TCCP)
– Typically, “non-agg” offenders see parole when their good time + work time+ flat time + 25% of sentence, or 15 years, whichever
is least. So, on the far end, if a non -agg offender has a life sentence for, say, DWI,he will see parole in less than seven years if he stays out of trouble.

“Violent/aggravated crime”
– These are contained in 42.12 p 3 (g)
– in 1993, the laws changed. Prior to 1993 “agg offenders” had to serve 25% of their sentence flat (quarter law) or 15 years, whichever
is least, without consideration of good/work time. This changed to 50 % or 30 years on 9-1-93, with some exceptions (i.e., capital + 40 flat). So, someone with a 50 year sentence must serve 25 flat. Everyone convicted under the quarter law has already seen parole. A
lot of people under the half law have a long time to go. The last statistic I saw showed that more than 50% of TDCJ’s population have an aggravated crime. That was three years ago.

Idea and reasoning:

A law change that would affect 20,000 people would be avoided by legislators. My proposal avoids that. The large majority of prisoners 
are repeat offenders. They have already had a “second chance” and wasted it. They have no right to cry. I think you understand. Now, most aggravated/violent offenders are repeat offenders or committed their crime when they were well into adulthood. My proposal focuses on a relatively small cross section of the prison population……..first offenders whose crime is categorized as violent under p 3 (g) and who were under 21 when the crime was committed.
Concise criteria:
* first-time offender
* first-time offense listed as a 3 (g) offense
* under 21 when crime committed. These people should be given a meaningful second chance if they can prove rehabilitation. If an 18 year old comes to prison his first time and has to serve 30 years to see parole his first time and possibly be released at 48 years old, is that a meaningful second chance?
My proposal gives these offenders a second chance that creates a middle ground between the two extremes previously noted. They won’t do the minimum (good + work + flat + 25% of sentence) or the mandatory minimum ( 1/2 of sentence or 30 years). They will go in between. I propose two options:
# 1. Good time + work time + flat time + mandatory minimum of agg sentence. This would effectively put the “second chance” candidates doing approximately (slightly more, maybe) twice the amount of non-agg time.

# 2. Second chance candidate becomes eligible whenhe serves the amount of flat time equal to his age when the crime was committed. ( I would serve 18 years and 66 days).
Because this is an exceptional case, exceptional rules could be implemented. The parole petitioner must meet the following criteria:
* must have been involved in rehab programs (education, etc.)
* must have good disciplinary record
* must be major disciplinary free for 24 months prior to parole petition
* must be seen by full-board review ( all board members instead of 1 member and 2 commissioners) and must receive 2/3 of boards vote. much like SB 45 cases
Benefits of bill:
– encourages rehabilitation of prisoner
– promotes public safety by rehabilitating inmate
– reduces recidivism
– lowers tax-payer cost in long run
– gives prisoners incentives for good behavior and therefore creates a safer prison environment


When John was 16 he made the really stupid mistake to rob ATM customers with a gun. In one of two incidents, the victim tried to take 
his gun away, it went off and the victim was shot in the leg. He was arrested and bail was set at $100,000. No one he knew was able to raise the money needed to get out, so he remained in jail……one of countless cases of pre-trial detention. Unable to afford qualified counsel his case stayed on the back-burner and was postponed. Two years later, having turned 18, he was certified as an adult and sentenced to life in prison…. despite his age at the time of the crime. He has been incarcerated for a total of 21 years and won’t be eligible for parole till 2025. He does not believe the sentence he received was proportionate to the crime he committed and is searching for ways to get a sentence reduction. Without the deep pockets that generally result in a higher quality of justice, he has a huge challenge….unless he can find an attorney that is rightfully shocked at what some consider to be cruel and unusual punishment.