In Texas, "Sex Offender" Label May Not Be Correct

Until recently, Texas minister Curtis Ray Graham had been classified as a sex offender for several years by the Texas parole board even though he had never been convicted of a sex crime. But Rev. Graham is not alone. Thousands of parolees in Texas have been labeled as sex offenders without ever having been convicted of a sex crime.

Previously, the Texas parole board had the ability to label a person a sex offender even if they had never been convicted of a sex crime. Under this policy, the parole board or parole officer could unilaterally determine when an offender should be labeled "Condition X" — the label given to sex offenders in Texas.

Offenders with the Condition X designation are forced to live a very restrictive life. They are limited in the jobs they can take and the places they can go. In addition, parolees with a Condition X classification may be required to wear ankle monitors that track their every movement.

Some Offenders May Get Back Their Freedom

With a recent court ruling, these offenders may be given back some of their freedom. In May, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed what other federal courts had already determined — that Texas parole officers and parole boards do not have the authority to apply the Condition X label without the proper hearings.

The damage caused by the Texas parole board policy of unilaterally declaring someone a sex offender is widespread. According to the Austin Statesmen, almost 7,000 parolees could be affected by the ruling. This means that there may be thousands of parolees who have been incorrectly stamped with Condition X. Many of these parolees were incorrectly classified after committing nonsexual crimes such as urinating in public or in some cases the parolee was completely acquitted of sex-related charges.

The battle for the parolees' rights has been going on for over 10 years and, finally, this ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has righted this violation. As of August, over 175 parolees have had the Condition X designation removed from their files.