Texas Board of Pardon Advisors:
An Inventory of Board of Pardon Advisors Pardon Books at the Texas State Archives, 1898-1917, 1926-1930
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 Board of Pardon Advisors (the predecessor of the Board of Pardons and Paroles) was created in 1893 (Senate Bill 19, 23rd Texas 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 by reviewing applications and making recommendations for executive clemency. The board was able to review more applications and examine these more thoroughly than the governor was able to do, which resulted in more pardons being granted.
Over the years, several pieces of legislation were enacted which reduced the exclusive power of the governor in this process. In 1905, the legislature allowed the State Penitentiary Board to begin granting paroles to meritorious convicts (Senate Bill 11, 29th Legislature, Regular Session). In 1910, the name was changed to the Board of Prison Commissioners (Senate Bill 10, 31st Legislature, 4th Called Session), and again in 1927 to the Texas Prison Board (House Bill 59, 40th Legislature, Regular Session).
In 1929, the legislature changed the name of the Board of Pardon Advisors to the Board of Pardons and Paroles (House Bill 20, 41st Legislature, 1st Called Session). 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 parolees. The board also gathered information regarding the 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, felonies committed while on parole, discharge from parole, records kept, and other items.
In 1935, the legislature placed restrictions on the governor's pardoning power and changed the appointment of the board (Senate Joint Resolution 26, 44th Legislature, Regular Session). The board was still composed of three members, but only one was appointed by the governor. One 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 only grant pardons and reprieves, commute sentences, and remit fines and forfeitures only with the written signed 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 (House Bill 120, 50th Legislature, Regular Session). This law authorized the board, 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 which governed parole actions. In 1957, the name of the Texas Prison Board was changed to the Texas Board of Corrections, and a Division for Parole Supervisors was established to open up district offices across the state to monitor parolees (House Bill 42, 55th Legislature, Regular Session). The board received further assistance with its parole duties with the creation of the Texas Parole Commission in 1975 (Senate Bill 240, 64th Legislature, Regular Session). 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, the structure of the board changed again, when the legislature increased the board to six members, all appointed by the governor with approval and consent of the Senate. The board continued to receive assistance from the Texas Parole Commission with parole decisions and mandatory supervision revocation decisions (Senate Bill 396, 68th Legislature, Regular Session).
In 1989, the legislature created the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to consolidate the various criminal justice functions in state government into one agency, with the Board of Pardons and Paroles a Division within that agency and its board increased to 18 members (House Bill 2335, 71st Legislature, Regular Session). Since 2001, the board has been comprised of six members plus a chair, appointed to six-year terms by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate (House Bill 1649, 77th Legislature, Regular Session).
The functions of the Board of Pardons and Paroles (Division) are the administration of the state-wide parole system (Article 42.18, Code of Criminal Procedure) and investigating acts of executive clemency by the governor (Texas Constitution, Article IV, Section 11, and Code of Criminal Procedure). Executive clemency includes reprieves of executions, commutation of sentences, full and conditional pardons, restoration of civil rights and citizenship, trial reprieves of all jail sentences, medical emergency reprieves, remission of bond forfeiture, and restoration of drivers licenses. Parole functions include determining prisoners to be paroled, establishing conditions of parole, investigating and supervising prisoners on parole, conducting parole revocation hearings, and establishing parole policies. Paroles are issued by orders of the board. Executive clemency acts still require the affirmative action of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor before action can be taken.
(Sources include: the enabling legislation, Paul M. Lucko, "Board of Pardons and Paroles," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 4, 2015; and the records themselves.)
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles assisted the governor in the review of applications for executive clemency. The records consist of five pardon books (1898-1917, 1926-1930) from the Board of Pardon Advisors. The Board of Pardon Advisors pardon books are records which were legislatively mandated to be maintained by the board. The entries are arranged alphabetically and give the convict number (1898-1917) or number of application (1926-1930), 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. Board actions included recommending granting pardons, paroles, and furloughs; advising reduction (commutation) of sentences and restoring citizenship; and adverse reports. According to the 1918 biennial report of the board, when action of the board was unfavorable, it usually was not reported, which may account for some blank entries under action taken. In some cases, the convict's sentence expired before the board took action on his case, which is also noted. Action taken by the governor (the recommended action granted) is not always provided.
To prepare this preliminary inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed the delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item), Texas Board of Pardon Advisors pardon books. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 1990/134
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Board of Pardons and Paroles Division, on April 30, 1990.
Processed by Laura Saegert, November 1990
Finding aid encoded in EAD 2002 and made DACS-compliant with edits to description by Susan Floyd, August 2015
These records were appraised by Paul Beck on August 27, 1990.
Detailed Description of the Records