Consequences of Abandoning Parole Drug and Alcohol Program Without Permission

In Houser v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 874 A.2d 1276 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), Houser was paroled to the Renewal Inc. Drug and Alcohol Inpatient Program (Renewal). After he spent sixty days at Renewal, Houser abandoned Renewal without permission and was declared delinquent. The Board subsequently recommitted Houser and recalculated his maximum term to expire on July 17, 2004. the recalculation order did not include any credit for time spent at Renewal. Houser appealed the recalculation order and requested credit for time at Renewal. The Board held an evidentiary hearing. Morris Richardson (Richardson), case manager and supervisor at Renewal, testified that the doors at Renewal were not locked or alarmed, there were no bars on the windows, and no fences surrounding the building. Nothing prevented a parolee from leaving the building and that if a parolee left, he was not regarded as having escaped. Richardson also explained that Houser had passes to go home and to work outside the facility without an escort, that employees were monitored coming and going, and that Renewal would report if any parolees did not return or left of their own accord. Houser, 874 A.2d at 1277. Houser's testimony conflicted with Richardson's. Houser stated he was closely monitored and had to sign out to leave the facility, that headcounts were taken, permission to leave was required, he could not drink alcohol, and he needed to be at Renewal by a time certain. He conceded that he was given passes to go home and work outside the facility and was never escorted when he left Renewal. The Board determined that Houser failed to rebut the presumption that he was at liberty while on parole, that he failed to meet his burden of producing evidence that specific characteristics of the Renewal program constituted restrictions on his liberty sufficient to warrant credit, and that he failed to persuade the Board that specific characteristics of the Renewal program were sufficient to warrant credit. The Board relied on Richardson's testimony. the Board denied Houser administrative relief. Houser petitioned to this Court. Houser, 874 A.2d at 1277-1278. This Court affirmed the Board: Petitioner Houser admitted to working outside the facility; going home with a pass without being escorted; and, being permitted to walk out of the facility at any time without being stopped. In fact, Petitioner Houser actually left the facility before successful completion of the program without being criminally charged for the escape. Moreover, the credited evidence of Richardson indicates that: (1) the doors were not locked; (2) there were no bars over the windows or fences surrounding the facility to keep residents inside; (3) the monitor at the front door was there to track who was coming in and out of the facility; (4) the staff members, who only referred to the residents as 'parolees' and not 'inmates,' would not restrain the parolees from leaving but, rather, would notify the Board. Based on the evidence, we believe the Board correctly concluded that Petitioner Houser did not meet his burden of producing evidence to prove that specific characteristics of the Renewal program constituted restrictions on his liberty sufficient to warrant credit on the sentence from which he was on parole during his attendance. Houser, 874 A.2d at 1279.