Michelle Belanger grew up in the Houston area and began a career with what was then known as the Texas Department of Corrections during July 1987. She began that career by filling a position created by the Ruiz litigation and that was designed to ensure that certain due process rights were afforded offenders in the agency disciplinary process. She would remain with that program, having worked on several units in the Huntsville area, until 1992.
Looking to advance her career, Michelle moved to security operations through a promotion to Sergeant at the soon-to-be-opened McConnell Unit in Beeville but was again promoted three weeks later to Lieutenant for the soon-to-be-opened Smith Unit in Lamesa. Although primarily responsible for unit-level investigations of offender grievances, Michelle also oversaw security operations as a shift supervisor.
One year later, she returned to the Huntsville area by promotion and worked as the Regional Grievance Coordinator, reporting to the Regional Director. With the 1996 consolidation of the program from three steps into a two-step process, Michelle moved to the Deputy Directorate level and prepared formal agency responses for the Director to review and approve.
After completion of undergraduate degree requirements, Michelle accepted a position with the Parole Division in Austin. She was one of two employees responsible for “after-hours” warrant issuance. Within a year, she was promoted to the position of Program Administrator, with functions that included warrant issuance as well as the review of extradition decisions involving parole violators (to include making recommendations to the Board of Pardons and Paroles on disposition of offenders returned to the State). She also oversaw functions of the unit responsible for maintaining more than 130,000 active parole violator warrants that were published in either statewide or nationwide databases.
Michelle left TDCJ during 1999 to work for an Austin-area firm that specialized in parole and corrections-related matters. During this period of time, Michelle appeared as an expert witness in the matters related to agency operations. She would remain with that firm until 2008 when she accepted a position with the Huntsville firm of Habern, O’Neil and Pawgan. Her vast experiences with all components of Texas corrections and parole provide an immeasurable benefit to clients of the firm.
With a reorganization of the firm, Michelle continued working with David O’Neil in the Houston office during 2015. Her experiences through her thirty-plus year career in parole and corrections have resulted in Michelle being interviewed by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on more than one occasion since 2014 to fill Parole Commissioner vacancies in different areas of the State