If your parent, spouse, sibling or another loved one is serving a prison sentence, you know how slowly time can move. After all, family members and friends of inmates often serve sentences of their own, albeit outside prison walls. Before you can begin to count down the remaining days on your loved one’s sentence, you have to understand how parole works in Texas.

As you probably know, some individuals must serve life behind bars without the possibility of parole. For most offenders in the Texas prison system, though, leaving prison will eventually become a reality. How much time your loved one must stay behind bars depends on a couple of factors.

The underlying offense

Prisons around the Lone Star State are crowded places. To ensure the state has enough room to house inmates, government officials regularly evaluate offenders for parole. To know when your loved one’s file is likely to land on the desk of a parole board clerk, you must consider the criminal conduct.

For aggravated crimes, individuals must stay in prison for at least half of their sentences. While determining whether an offense falls into this category requires a comprehensive legal analysis, you can think about aggravated crimes as those involving a deadly weapon. Violent crimes are also usually aggravated offenses.

With nonaggravated offenses, on the other hand, inmates often serve only a bit more than 12 percent of their sentences. After this period, parole officials consider letting them leave prison. Because this time can pass quickly, you may want to begin planning for parole immediately after your loved one’s sentencing.

Behavior behind bars

When evaluating a request for parole, government officials often consider an inmate’s prison conduct. Simply put, you must encourage your loved one to stay out of trouble during his or her incarceration. Taking rehabilitation courses, participating in prison employment and obeying prison officials are also generally effective strategies for leaving prison early.

While waiting for your loved one to walk out of prison may seem like an eternity, parole is available for most inmates in Texas. By understanding parole, you can better plan for your loved one’s eventual release.