(AUSTIN, Texas) — A loophole in Texas law is opening the cell doors for hundreds of convicted killers and other violent criminals, and setting dates for their early release.
All inmates convicted between 1977 and 1987 will be released from prison after the number of days they have spent in jail and the number of days they have spent in good conduct equals one-third of their initial sentence, according to the Texas parole guide.
In 1987, the law was amended to exclude violent criminals. But the amendment only applies to violent criminals convicted after 1987.
Among those up for release is Genene Jones, 63, a Texas nurse found guilty in 1984 of injecting 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan with a fatal dose of a muscle relaxant. She was sentenced to 99 years. In addition, she got 60 concurrent years for an attack on another child who survived. Nevertheless, she is scheduled to be released on Feb. 24, 2018, after serving 35 years, according to state records.
David Port, 46, was found guilty in 1985 of abducting and shooting postal worker Deborah Sue Schatz, 23, in the head. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison, but will be released on June 5, 2014, according to state records.
“I don’t think he should be walking free,” Mary Jordan, 55, of Katy, Texas, and Schatz’s sister, told ABC News.
“My sister got death. My father died because he couldn’t handle it. Why should he be able to walk free? It’s not right, it’s not fair,” she said.
Families like the Schatzs worry that if released, the convicted killers will continue to pose a threat.
“If he gets out, he can go back to how he was before. It’s all he knows. They’re not changing them in prison. Who else is going to have to die?” Jordan asked.
Over 1,000 individuals convicted of a crime and imprisoned in Texas between 1977 and 1987 are eligible for mandatory release. Many of these individuals were convicted of nonviolent crimes. It is estimated, however, that hundreds of these inmates were convicted of murder, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice statistics obtained by ABC News.
The office of Gov. Rick Perry said there is nothing they can do about the release of violent convicts.
“Offender release is governed by law in effect when the offense was committed and cannot constitutionally be changed retroactively,” Rich Parsons, deputy director of communications for the governor’s office, said in a statement to ABC News.
“The governor, like all Texans, expects the Parole Division of TDCJ to closely supervise offenders according to their release rules to ensure public protection,” Parsons said.
Andy Kahan, a victim’s advocate working out of the mayor’s office in Houston, works with the families of murder victims to keep their loved ones’ killers in prison.
“Most families I have reached out to were unaware that these people would be released from prison,” he said.
Kahan is working on the behalf of victims’ families like the McClellans and Schatzs to keep the killers of their loved ones in prison.
“In most of these cases there is little or any recourse,” Kahan said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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