Records Appraisal Report:
Board of Pardons and Paroles Full Pardon Files

Contents of this report
Agency contact | Record Series Review

Internal links to series reviews
Full pardon files


September 27, 2001, Laura K. Saegert, Appraisal Archivist


Agency Contact

This agency contact information was current at the time of the report but may have changed in the interim. Please call (512-463-5455) for current contact information of the agency's records manager or records liaison for these records.

Denise Williams, Hearings Section


Record Series Review

Records Series Review
Series Title: Full pardon files

Obsolete record series?
Replaced by: No

Ongoing record series?
Annual accumulation: unknown

Agency holdings:
1992-ongoing, 17 + cubic ft. at the State Records Center, unknown amount at the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Description:
This series consists of full pardon files from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, dating 1992-ongoing. Records in each of the files include a log, giving dates the Board members voted on the full pardon application and whether they voted for or against the application; a letter from the governor authorizing the full pardon; one or two official copies of the pardon proclamation (signed by the governor and affixed with a gold seal of office); and a packet with attachments sent to the governor for review. Items in the packet include a cover sheet giving the name and address of the subject, sentence, plea, recommendation of the board, date of conviction, date of sentence, court of conviction, offense charged, and arrests since the conviction. Attachments include:

  • a certified copy of the judgement, sentence, and order of dismissal;
  • signature page of Board members (those recommending the pardon and those voting against it);
  • criminal history reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety or possibly from a national crime database;
  • a letter to the Sheriff (from county of conviction) attesting to whether or not the full sentence was served;
  • an admission summary;
  • arrest record (gives county, date and location of arrest, number, name of offender, charge, sentence, and release date);
  • letters of recommendation to the Board to approve the pardon (could be from employers, clergy, friends, neighbors, physicians, psychiatrists, etc.);
  • statement from the offender as to why he wants a full pardon;
  • the pardon application;
  • letters to the board re: the pardon process (could be from the offender, attorneys, local officials, etc.);
  • an affidavit from the offender re: his crime and acknowledging his rehabilitation;
  • certificates of parole (from those offenders who served on parole for their sentence or as part of their sentence);
  • a case summary from the Board, giving the name and Texas Department of Criminal Justice # of the offender; data on previous probation (when applicable); summary of the crime; drug/alcohol problems; social history (place of birth, true name, parents names, residential area, age offender left home and the reason for leaving, delinquent family members (such as those in prison), marital status, education, vocational training, employment, military data); and a physical/mental history (such as physical problems, any commitments to mental or rehabilitation facilities).

The Parole Division of the Dept. of Criminal Justice also has full pardon files, which do not have an archival code. Dates and contents of these files are unknown. We are not reviewing those files at this time.

Purpose:
Full pardon files document the issuance of a full pardon to an offender, providing the supporting documentation used in the pardon decision process.

A full pardon restores certain citizenship rights forfeited by law as the result of a criminal conviction, such as the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to hold public office. Of note, in many states--including Texas--voting rights are automatically restored when one discharges a felony sentence, even without a pardon. Pursuant to the current Texas Election Code, voting rights are restored to Texas residents after discharging a felony sentence, provided that they are otherwise eligible to register.

A full pardon will remove barriers to some, but not all, types of employment and professional licensing. However, licenses are granted at the discretion of the state licensing boards of each profession, and it is advisable to contact such boards directly to learn whether a pardon is necessary or sufficient to restore licensing eligibility in a particular field. A pardon will not restore eligibility to become a licensed peace officer in Texas.

A full pardon does not have the legal effect of expunging a criminal record or of exonerating an individual of his crime, unless the pardon is based on grounds of innocence. Innocence pardons are extremely unusual and are usually considered only on unanimous recommendation of an applicant's three trial officials (sentencing judge, district attorney, sheriff).

Agency program:
The executive clemency process--pardoning convicts, giving executive paroles, granting furloughs, commuting sentences, etc., was a function given to the Governor under the Constitution of the State of Texas, Article IV, Section 11. The Texas Board of Pardon Advisors (the predecessor of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles) was created in 1893 (Senate Bill 19, 23rd Legislature, Regular Session) to assist the Governor with these executive clemency functions. The Board of Pardon Advisors was composed of two individuals, chosen by the Governor, who assisted him/her by reviewing applications for executive clemency and making recommendations to the Governor. The Board was able to review more applications and examine them more thoroughly than the Governor, resulting in more pardons granted.

Over the years, several pieces of legislation were enacted that reduced the exclusive power of the Governor in this process. In 1905, the 29th Legislature (Senate Bill 11, Regular Session) allowed the State Penitentiary Board to begin granting paroles to meritorious convicts, subject to certain restrictions. The Board of Pardon Advisors worked with the Penitentiary Board to write rules for the regulation of this new law. In 1911, Senate Bill 249 (32nd Legislature, Regular Session) allowed granting paroles to meritorious convicts by the Board of Prison Commissioners (name change from the State Penitentiary Board).

In 1929, the 41st Legislature, First Called Session, passed Senate Bill 1, changing the name of the Board of Pardon Advisors to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The new Board was expanded to add another member--all still appointed by the Governor. The Governor appointed a Chairman of the Board. The Board designated a member to serve as the Supervisor of Paroles, whose duties included compiling a list of all convicts eligible for parole, studying prisoners being considered for parole, securing employment (if possible) for parolees, and keeping a record of the parolees. The Board also gathered information regarding the convicts cases, kept pre-parole records, maintained a register of cases acted upon, and made recommendations to the Governor regarding the disposition of clemency applications. This law also detailed all aspects of the parole system, including who could be paroled, reasons and methods for release, conditions of parole, violations of parole, retaking parole violators, noting felonies committed while on parole, discharge from parole, records kept, and other items.

In 1935, the 44th Legislature placed restrictions on the governor's pardoning power and changed the appointment of the Board of Pardons and Paroles (Senate Joint Resolution 26, Regular Session). The Board was still composed of three members, but only one member was appointed by the Governor. One member was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the other by the presiding Justice of the Court of Civil Appeals, all subject to confirmation by the Senate. The Governor could grant pardons and reprieves, commute sentences, and remit fines and forfeitures only with the written signed recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, except in cases of treason and impeachment. For these latter cases, he was required to have the advice and recommendation of the Legislature. The Governor could still grant a reprieve in capital punishment cases, not to exceed thirty days, and had the power to revoke paroles and conditional pardons.

In 1947, the Adult Probation and Parole Law was enacted by the 50th Legislature, Regular Session, House Bill 120. This law authorized the Board of Pardons and Paroles, with approval of the Governor, to release any prisoners for parole or probation, with the exception of those under a death sentence. This law replaced the former parole laws and became the statute that governed parole actions. A Division of Parole Supervisors was established in 1957, as part of the Board, to open up district offices across the state to monitor parolees. The Board received further assistance with its parole duties with the creation of the Texas Parole Commission, created in 1975 by the 64th Legislature, Regular Session, Senate Bill 240. This Commission was composed of six parole commissioners with decision-making authority in parole matters and was designated to assist the Board with some parole functions.

In 1983, legislation was enacted (Senate Bill 396, 68th Legislature, Regular Session) that again changed the structure of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board was increased to six members, appointed by the Governor with the approval and consent of the Senate.

In 1989, the Board of Pardons and Paroles was placed under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (created by House Bill 2335, 71st Legislature, to consolidate the various criminal justice functions in state government into one agency) as a Division in that agency. The Board of Pardons and Paroles Division was governed by a Board of Pardons and Paroles, increased to an 18 member board. The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate, appoints the Board's 18 members. Members hold office for six-year terms. To be eligible to serve, Board members must be representative of the general public, be resident citizens of Texas, and have resided in Texas for the two years preceding appointment. Six members of the Board are designated by the Governor to serve as Policy Board members for the duration of their terms. In addition to other Board duties, Policy Board members adopt rules relating to board decision-making processes, establish caseloads for Board members, develop and update parole guidelines and policies, and carry out other functions. The Chairman of the Board, who is designated by the Governor, is also presiding officer of the Policy Board.

In 1997 the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles once again become a separate agency (75th Legislature, House Bill 1386, Regular Session). The primary role of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is the discretionary release of eligible inmates sentenced to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to a plan of parole supervision. In addition, the Board is responsible for determining the conditions of release, imposing any special conditions for individuals on parole or individuals on mandatory supervision on a case by case basis, and responding to violations of the conditions of release with sanctions to include revocation and re-incarceration. On September 1, 1996, the Board was given authority to review and rescind scheduled mandatory supervision releases for inmates with offenses committed on or after September 1, 1996.

Texas Administrative Code, Title 37, Part 5.

Arrangement:
The files are arranged by year, then alphabetically by last name.

Access constraints:
Yes. Much of the information in the pardon files is confidential.

Criminal history records are confidential (V.T.C.A., Government Code, 411, Subchapter F.) One section of this statute in particular concerns criminal history record information found in the archives at the State Library and access to that information by State Library employees - "(c) Criminal history record information obtained by the commission [TSLAC] under Subsection (B) [records in the archives of the State Library] may not be released or disclosed to any person except on court order or with the consent of the person who is the subject of the information" (V.T.C.A., Government Code, 411.134). Criminal history reports from the Department of Public Safety are confidential and are generally to be destroyed after they are used for the purpose intended (such as for a criminal history background check for employment). Agencies that have the right to retain these, such as TDCJ, are to release them only to the subject of the report or for specific purposes (such as to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for parole/pardon requests). Criminal history reports from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a national crime database operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are governed by federal statues and are confidential (28 Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 20 and 42 USC, §3789g).

Information on the arrest sheets and the first page of an offense report is open except for the following (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Texas Public Information Act, 552.108):

  • Names of victims of sexual offenses (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Texas Public Information Act, 552.101);
  • Driver's license numbers (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Texas Public Information Act, 552.130);
  • Information that would interfere with law enforcement, such as law enforcement methodology, strategies, techniques, sketches of security measures, and cell phone numbers of officers (I have not seen data of this nature in these files, likely it would not be there).

In the V.T.C.A., Government Code, Corrections, 508.313, the following items are confidential:

  • "(a) All information obtained and maintained, including a victim protest letter or other correspondence, a victim impact statement, a list of inmates eligible for release on parole, and an arrest record of an inmate, is confidential and privileged if the information relates to: (1) an inmate of the institutional division subject to release on parole, release to mandatory supervision, or executive clemency."
  • According to staff at the Board of Pardons and Paroles, other items confidential under this statute include:

    • substance abuse treatment information and records,
    • results of urine analysis,
    • the place and address of employers of the offenders,
    • any data re: therapy visits,
    • parolee's disciplinary status upon release,
    • driver's license number,
    • social security number,
    • telephone number,
    • correspondence with the victim,
    • records of incarceration (according to TBPP staff, this includes any records re: time in prison, such as items in the inmate's file at TDCJ, to include disciplinary records, psychiatrists reports, etc.)
    • and designation codes on the minute's sheet (or log) (S, F15 and F16) that identify offenders with conditions such as substance abuse.

Use constraints:
If we maintain the files, the criminal history reports will remain closed. Other confidential information will be redacted by an archivist prior to allowing access. Redaction will be done on demand. If we find any information found regarding law enforcement methodology, etc., the case will be sent to the Attorney General for review.

Indexes or finding aids required for/or an aid to access? unknown

Problems:
Criminal history reports need to be removed. Much of the information in the files needs to be redacted.

Known related records in other agencies:
The Criminal Justice Division in the Governor's office maintains pardon files sent by the Board of Pardons and Paroles to the governor for his review.

The Parole Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains similar files on parolees.

Previous destructions:
The Archives accessioned a group of records in 1963 (1963/181) that included mostly routine administrative records of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and some full pardon records dating 1951-1954. There is a note from the guide survey archivist, Paul Beck, dated August 22, 1988, that he had searched everywhere for these records and could not find them, so he presumed they were destroyed. Later in 1988, the State Archivist, Chris LaPlante, signed a destruction request (dated September 1, 1988) for some Board of Pardons and Paroles administrative records and added in pencil several record types to the request (not listed on the records transmittal), including some full pardon records dating 1977-1978. The only box requested from the 1988 transmittal was board minutes (AC 1989/45) and the accession log has the minutes listed as being destroyed. On July 24, 2001, I checked our Minaret database and could not locate any of these records (full pardon records or minutes).

Publications based on records:
None known.

Internet pages based on records:
Information about the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is at http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/index.htm.
Information about full pardons is at http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html#WHAT%20IS%20A%20FULL%20PARDON. The site does not contain a list of people pardoned.

Series data from agency schedule (based on 1999 schedule - The Board does not yet have a separate schedule):
TDCJ - Parole Board
Title: Full pardons
Series item number: none
Agency item number: 13.00.00.001
Archival code: A
Retention: AC +10 (Confidential)

TDCJ - Parole Division
Title: Full pardons
Series item number: none
Agency item number: 13.00.00.001
Archival code: none
Retention: AC +10 (Confidential)

Archival holdings:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Board of Pardon Advisors pardon books, 1898-1930, 2.37 cubic ft.
The records in this accession consist of five Pardon Books from the Board of Pardon Advisors (1898-1917, 1926-1930) and one Executive Office Pardon Book, 1915-1921. The Board's Pardon Books are records that were legislatively mandated to be maintained by the Board. The entries are arranged alphabetically. They give the case number, the convict's name, when sentenced, term of sentence, offense, county, date petition received, action of the Board, and in the latter four volumes, action requested (or taken) by the Governor. In most cases, action taken by the Board is shown.

Texas Secretary of State, Executive clemency - pardon proclamations, 1846-1988, 14 cubic ft. (paper), 1.53 cubic ft. (microfilm)
These are pardon proclamations, dating 1848-1988. Proclamations usually give some or all of the following types of information; the name of the pardoned individual, when convicted, where, the court, the crime, the punishment, length of sentence served, who recommends executive clemency, any conditions on the pardon, date of pardon, and signature of the governor and the clerk.

Texas Secretary of State, Executive clemency - Applications for pardons, 1848-1918, 1932-1935 (bulk 1880-1900), 72.03 cubic ft.
This series contains records not only for applications for pardons but also for other forms of executive clemency, including communtation of sentence, citizenship restoration, or remission of fines and forfeitures. All requests were organized as individual case files. Dates covered are 1848-1918, 1932-1935. Types of records found in the applications include correspondence, petitions, and court records such as indictments and transcripts. Occasionally, there are actual proclamations from the governor granting a pardon or restoring citizenship. The correspondence and petitions asking for clemency usually came from the citizens of the convict's home area and many times even the judge and jury that sentenced the convict signed a petition. Some case files include certificates of prison conduct which are the records of prison behavior used by the governor to evaluate a clemency request. A certificate lists the name of the convict, the crime, and the sentence being served and also provides personal information such physical description, race, marital status, education, and occupation.

Texas Secretary of State, Registers of applicants for pardons and remissions of fines, 1887-1891, 1939, 0.54 cubic ft.
Registers listing applicants for pardons and remissions of fines, dating 1887-1891, 1939.

Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, Pardon files, 1987-1990, 0.5 cubic ft.
Records consist of the pardon files submitted to the governor from the Board of Pardon and Paroles and maintained by the Office of the General Counsel. People convicted of crimes who sought pardons and/or restoration of their civil rights initiated such a request with the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board examined each request and made a recommendation to the governor. If the governor approved of the Boards' recommendation for a pardon, he would then issue a pardon proclamation. Approved pardon files include recommendation forms from the Board of Pardons and Paroles which usually contain a synopsis of an applicant's arrest and imprisonment record, a copy of the cover letter from the governor to the Board announcing his decision, and copies of the governor's pardon proclamations. These records date from 1987-1989. There is a separate file from 1990 of letters from the governor to the Board rejecting pardon applications.

Texas Secretary of State, Pardon registers and reward proclamations, 1870-1938, 0.10 cubic ft.
Registers of pardons issued between January 24, 1870 through February 18, 1896. Earlier pardons include documentation and petitions, later ones are recorded with extensive explanations. Materials dating to 1938 are the reward proclamations.

Texas Documents Collection holdings: None

Gaps:
We are appraising files for 1992-1993. Full pardon files from the Board of Pardons and Paroles do not exist prior to that. We hold some similar files from 1987-1990, but they are not the complete full pardon files.

Appraisal decision:
There are a lot of confidentiality problems with these files, which is probably why we have not taken any before. According to our files, we disposed of some in 1988. According to the Board's agency contact, Denise Williams, there is a note on their copy of the retention schedule from 1993 for this series that says "No "A" per Chris LaPlante." We do not have a corresponding note here, likely because it was a verbal decision and those were not always well documented. I asked the agency why they had put an "A" on the next version of the retention schedule. They said someone likely misread the note or else they thought the Archives was the same thing as the State Records Center, which is where the records are stored for 10 years after the case is closed. It was not the intention of current staff at the agency to have an archival code of "A" on the schedule for the full pardon files.

There is some interesting information in the files, but much of it is confidential. Items of the most value to patrons, in my opinion, would be the original pardon proclamations, the letters of support, the pardon application, the case summary, and the offender's statement as why they wanted a full pardon. However, the pardon proclamations are filmed and available on microfilm. Some letters of support are from employers and doctors/psychiatrists, which according to the statutes, are confidential or parts thereof are confidential. There are items in the pardon application that would need to be redacted (driver's license number, address and place of employment, possibly information relating to treatment). The case summary has information that is confidential, such as parole or probation data, information on delinquent family members - this could include juvenile delinquents, and information in the physical/mental history portion of the summary. According to staff in at the Board of Pardons and Paroles (Public Information Section and the Hearings Section) the privacy of the information declared confidential does not end with death.

Carolyn asked if we could select files. Yes, we could go through the files and select those based on certain felony convictions. Some files I looked at concerned offenders who wrote hot checks and never served any time, but were on probation for a set period of time; some had burglary convictions, others were convicted on drug offenses, etc. Doing a sampling of cases would make the statement we were keeping these files to document a pre-determined set of criteria based on case selection. Who would make that determination (us, TBPP, TDCJ?) and what would be that criteria be? We would not be keeping the files to provide information about those pardoned, but instead about the process. Which is fine, but we would need to clarify the criteria for keeping these files. Reasons given for requesting the pardon vary, as do the letters of support and the nature of the crime. Most of the files I reviewed concerned pardon requests dating 10 or more years after the offender's sentence was served.

I am not convinced (thought I possibly could be) that a sampling project of the pardon files is warranted. These are files of offenders receiving full pardons, not just anyone who was out on parole. Not everyone in the full pardon files was even on parole at any time. I could see social history uses down the line for the whole set (given as an example) - to see the range of offenders getting pardons, but that would need to be correlated with those who applied for pardons but did not receive them. Denied pardon application files are still at the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Lastly, I talked to the agency about what would happen to the full pardon files if the offender's criminal record was later expunged (receiving a pardon of innocence). This happens very rarely, but I decided to check. Would the files need to be destroyed, returned, or would there be any effect at all? Ms. Williams checked with contacts throughout the Board of Pardons and Paroles, especially with staff in the Executive Clemency section. They said since the Board of Pardons and Parolees is not the holder of the original record (criminal records, parolee records, etc.), expungement of a criminal record would not affect their files. It would be an issue to be addressed to the Parole Division at TDCJ. I checked with the TDCJ Records Manager, Terry Wunderlich, and he referred me to Troy Fox, Director of Parole Division's Review and Release Processing Section. Mr. Fox said that when criminal records are expunged, the record is removed from the active files (or the portion expunged) and stored with other expunged records - the records are not destroyed, just removed. He said if a full pardon file at the Archives needs to have data expunged, they would contact us about the file. We would then send the file to TDCJ who would remove what needs to be expunged, which often is not the whole file, but maybe reference to a particular offense, as opposed to a whole criminal record with multiple offenses. They would then send back the record, with the expunged data deleted or removed (if a separate sheet(s) of data).

I am appraising these records as non-archival. There are a number of confidentiality issues, Chris has twice decided the full pardon records were not archival (just poorly documented that), and the primary document concerning the pardon is the pardon proclamation, which is available in the Executive clemency records of the Secretary of State. Additionally, the records are not archival because they do not reveal the formulation of agency policy and procedures, but are rather the implementation of agency policy and procedures. Also, while it would be nice for relatives of offenders receiving full pardons to have access to some of this data (letters of support, affidavit and statement by offender, pardon proclamation, etc.), the bulk of the records (17 cubic ft. for 1992-1993) and the marginal value of most information in the files makes these records not archival.

The agency can remove the archival code of A from the schedule and dispose of the files that have fulfilled their retention period.

Note: These records were appraised as not archival by the Archives Appraisal staff in October 2001.

Page last modified: August 31, 2011