Helen Gaebler (left) and Cassie Geiken ’22 outside the TDCJ Coleman Unit in Lockhart, Texas.


Parole Project

The Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s Parole Project assists women who are incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in their efforts to obtain parole. In the first four years of the project, the pro bono team, led by Justice Center senior research attorney Helen Gaebler, has won approximately 75% of its 44 cases, sparing the women years of incarceration. With this track record of success and the enthusiasm of the student volunteers working on behalf of these women, the pro bono project continues to grow, assisting 24 women in 2022 and involving upwards of 60 students.

The Parole Project takes another big step in 2022 with the addition of a full-time Parole Fellow. Cassie Geiken ’22 will supervise student volunteers as well as work to further expand the project’s reach by providing training and technical assistance on parole packet preparation to other Texas law schools, impacted families, and criminal justice reform advocates around the state. This two-year fellowship is made possible through a generous private donation.

The Justice Center continually seeks ways to expand on its work in this area, collaborating with advocates and attorneys around the state working on parole-related issues and providing resource expertise to the Texas Legislature. In 2020, the Justice Center joined the Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic in submitting comments to the Texas House Committee on Appropriations regarding the impact of Texas’ aging inmate population on rising health care costs at TDCJ. The comments recommend expanding early release options for Texas’ geriatric prison population, a group already far less likely to return to prison for new crimes and posing lower criminogenic risks than younger individuals. And in 2022, Gaebler and Clinical Professor Jeana Lungwitz, who directs the Law School’s Domestic Violence Clinic, provided interdisciplinary training on best practices for utilizing social workers in parole cases.

Focus Area: Criminal Legal System