Not all parolees released from Texas prisons have to come to Austin, despite one city official's claim

Officials say a comment made by homeless strategy officer Lori Pampilo Harris regarding inmates coming to Austin from all Texas prisons is false.

Officials say a comment made by homeless strategy officer Lori Pampilo Harris regarding inmates coming to Austin from all Texas prisons is false.

Lori Pampilo Harris, the city’s homelessness strategy officer told City Council during an Oct. 29 work session that some of the influx of people coming to the city’s downtown homeless shelter was owed to a state system in which anybody released from prison in Texas is sent to Austin. The system, Pampilo Harris told council members, required those recently released from prison to check in with the Austin Transitional Center, then required them to stay in the area for a specific amount of time.

The comments from Pampilo Harris are incorrect, according to officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as an operator of the Austin Transitional Center—a residential reentry center, also called a halfway house, in Del Valle.

“There is an [Austin Transitional Center] where parolees from across the state must come to Austin to register and then, additionally, it is my understanding that they have to stay in Austin,” Pampilo Harris said. “So, you’re wondering where that inflow [to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless] is coming from. The inflow is coming from many systems who say here’s the ARCH, come and get help.”

The comment caught some council members off guard, who later asked Pampilo Harris to clarify. Pampilo Harris clarified that her knowledge was preliminary but then repeated the claim.

“Anybody who is released in the state of Texas needs to come to Austin to get certified or checked-in to the [Austin Transitional Center],” Pampilo Harris said. “My understanding is that once they are checked in, they cannot leave the area for a certain period of time. Even when I was out [in front of the ARCH] there was a few people who said that’s where they were coming from and that they wanted to go home, but couldn’t.”

Jeremy Desel, director of communications with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state agency that oversees the process of exiting incarceration in Texas, said the comment was demonstrably false. The agency’s website also shows that the Austin Transitional Center is one of eight halfway houses and one of 15 residential substance abuse facilities in the state.

“No, all parolees in Texas do not go to, travel through or have to check-in anywhere in Austin,” Desel said.

Desel said when offenders are released on parole, they are released with a home plan, which is developed with and approved by the parole division prior to release. The home plan includes an approved address, which is often in the county of their legal residence. The only time they are released somewhere other than the county of their residence is if they are released to an approved halfway house.

Brandon Bissell, a representative of CoreCivic, a service provider who contracts with the state to operate the Austin Transitional Center, said parolees released to the center reside at the center.

“Clients who are released from prison to that facility actually live there and are not discharged unless they have a valid home plan, which includes a physical address that is approved by the parole officer and a sponsor who lives at that address—also verified and approved by the parole officer,” Bissell said in an email.

Desel said many parolees are required to have “gainful employment” before their release. He did say that some are released with a halfway house as the approved address until they are able to get on their feet. He said all parolees are required to check in with parole officers within 24 hours of their release.

There are exceptions to this, however. Community Impact Newspaper spoke with a few people camping outside the ARCH over the summer. One person said he did not want his name used because his parole officer thought he was staying with a friend in the area, not living outside the ARCH. Other people Community Impact Newspaper spoke with said they had just gotten out of jail, and outside the ARCH was the only place they knew where they could be safe and homeless.

“This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some parolees who go to [the ARCH] to receive some services in or around that building, but no, all [Texas] parolees do not go to Austin in any way shape or form,” Desel said.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


The Texas Department of Transportation project on I-35 is now scheduled to be finished this winter. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Estimated completion of I-35 project near William Cannon Drive pushed back until winter

The project was initially expected to be finished this summer.

Dr. Molly Lopez is the director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health and also serves as a research associate professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. (Designed by Stephanie Torres/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Mental health expert talks emotional well-being, building resiliency for the 2020-21 school year

According to Dr. Molly Lopez, director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, the upcoming school year will serve as an opportunity for students, families, teachers and school administrators to learn skills in coping, re-evaulate mental health protocols and build resiliency in challenging times.

Jules Design Bar
TABC change opens window for some bars to qualify as restaurants under state pandemic orders

Following a new industry guideline recently distributed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, more bars across the state may soon be able to qualify as restaurants.

Here are the coronavirus updates to know today in Hays County. (Community Impact staff)
Dripping Springs woman is Hays County's 38th COVID-19 death

Hays County reported 2,673 active cases of the coronavirus and 126 hospitalizations related to the virus Aug. 13.

Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin will send $460 million transportation bond to voters in November

The bond would fund include capital improvements to a number of projects, including the Longhorn Dam Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. The cost to the median Austin taxpayer would be about $77-$80 per year.

The future location on South Congress Avenue would be the third located in the South Austin area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
P. Terry's plans for S. Congress drive-thru and more Austin-area news

Read the latest Austin-area business and community news.

Tesla announced its decision to bring its next gigafactory to Travis County on July 22. (Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tesla posts first gigafactory jobs as construction gets underway in Travis County

The company has 49 active listings for Austin-area jobs related to the gigafactory and other operations.

A police officer rides past protesters during the June 7 Justice for Them All March. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police transformation begins in Austin as City Council approves millions in budget cuts, reinvestments, commitments

The move comes in response to a national and local reckoning over police brutality and the future of public safety.

Capital Metro's plan to build rail lines and expand its public transportation network, Project Connect, will head to voters in the city of Austin on Nov. 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Project Connect officially in the hands of Austin voters Nov. 3

Austin City Council took its final vote Aug. 13 on a plan to ask voters for approximately $3.85 billion in local revenue to expand the city's public transportation network.

Austin Regional Clinic location
Austin Regional Clinic now recruiting for coronavirus vaccine trial

Local health care provider Austin Regional Clinic will recruit 250 patients from the Austin area to participate in a late-phase clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine.

The future location on South Congress Avenue would be the third located in the South Austin area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
P. Terry's submits plans for new S. Congress drive-thru

The future location would be the third located in the South Austin area.

(Courtesy AMC Theatres)
AMC Theatres to reopen Aug. 20 with 15-cent tickets

AMC Theatres—which has multiple locations in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas—will begin reopening its movie screens Aug. 20.