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Parole eligibility may get a second look

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Amarillo, TX -- Texas inmates serving time for crimes against children could spend even more time behind bars if legislators choose to enact some proposed reforms.

Under current policy, many inmates, including those convicted of crimes against children, are automatically eligible for parole every year, but some say those inmates should have no such privilege.

"Emma's Law" would be named after Emma Thompson, a 4 year-old Houston girl who was raped and beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend in 2009.

Lucas Coe was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Her mother, however, received a sentence of twenty years for child endangerment by omission, but after just two years, she was eligible for parole, and will be every year through the duration of her sentence.

"Emma's Law" proposes lengthening the time between parole hearings, but the issue is not so simple, as District 31 Texas Senator Kel Seliger says,

"The timing of the parole hearings are not in and of themselves part of the punishment.  So if we're going to change the period for parole reviews, I think we ought to look at all of the offenses covered by parole."

 Randall County District Attorney James Farren says a large number of convicted criminals never serve their complete sentence, because offering the carrot of early release helps maintain order in state prisons, saying,

"I think it [parole] is a tool that the prison system hopes will help control the population.  If they believe there's a chance that they'd be released on parole within a year - if Santa Claus is going to come at the end of the year, then they're going to be good."

"Emma's Law" would not be considered until the next legislative session at the earliest.

If you'd like to learn more about parole guidelines and statistics, follow the links attached to this story.

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