Texas

Gov. Abbott calls for tougher penalties for removing monitors from ankles after three murders in Dallas.

Gov. Greg Abbott called on state legislators to introduce tougher penalties for manipulating ankle sensors following two recent murders in Dallas that police say were committed by parolees.

Abbott called for tougher measures in letter to Texas Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dade Phelanin which he called current policies “ineffective” in preventing violent crime.

“It is clear from the report that legislative action is needed,” Abbott writes. “Currently, there are no criminal consequences for a parolee who disables an ankle monitor. Texas cannot allow violent criminals who endanger public safety to return to our communities. ”

Neither Patrick nor Phelan responded to a request for comment.

The letter follows a report released last month by the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. which found lapses in the release and parole of two men who were later charged with the murders of three people..

Nestor Hernandez was arrested on suspicion of killing two people in October. He was required to wear an ankle monitor while living under the care of a family member. Prior to his latest arrest, the report states that he had a history of disconnecting ankle monitors.

Hernandez was wearing a monitor but had permission to attend the birth of his child at Dallas Methodist Medical Center on October 22, when police said he started fighting with his girlfriend. The Dallas police report states that Hernandez claimed she was cheating on him, then pulled out a gun and attacked her. The report states that he shot and killed social worker Jacqueline Ama Pokuaa, who entered the room to provide routine services to patients, and then shot and killed nurse Katie Annette Flowers as she peeked into the room.

The report shows that Hernandez did not honor his release obligations, including the requirement to attend anger management groups and post-op support. According to the report, his parole officer failed to document this or tighten sanctions on Hernadez as required.

The report states that after a failed drug test, Hernandez was told to attend drug support groups but was not referred for outpatient treatment.

According to the report, the parole officer who oversaw Hernandez’s release no longer works for the agency. Five other people were also implicated in missing surveillance. Only two remained with the agency. Two were fired, two were punished, the fifth was recommended for dismissal.

Zerik Jackson was arrested in November on charges of killing a man in Dallas. Police say Jackson followed his girlfriend home, where he found Brian Dillard. He then entered the house and shot and killed Dillard, police said.

Jackson was released on parole, which was approved on April 1, 2022, after he served 95% of his 18-year sentence for aggravated robbery. The terms of his parole included participation in the Super Intensive Supervision Program, or SISP, the highest level of supervision offered. All SISP members are monitored using GPS technology.

According to the report, Jackson had two violations on July 15 and August 11, both of which were determined by his parole officer to be equipment malfunctions. During their investigation, TBPP and TDCJ found that Hernandez committed 16 violations during which he deviated from his approved schedule to visit his girlfriend.

Jackson’s parole officer was recommended for dismissal.

Following the report, Brian Collier, executive director of the TDCJ, and David G. Gutierrez, chairman of TBPP, recommended a series of legislative measures, including tougher penalties for parolees who remove their monitors from their ankles.

The report notes that removing ankle sensors is now an administrative offense rather than a criminal offense and that “increased penalties could act as a deterrent and discourage those already under increased surveillance from attempting to evade surveillance.”

The report also recommends requiring law enforcement to prioritize the arrest and detention of SISP clients, using warrants to expedite those arrests.

Collier and Gutierrez concluded by saying that their agencies will work together to find solutions.

“While separate agencies, TDCJ and BPP share the same mission of public safety,” they wrote. “We recognize the importance of our role in the criminal justice system and are committed to fulfilling our public safety responsibilities.”

Read Abbott’s letter below:



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