As of 2015, a life sentence in Texas means that a person is ordered to serve 40 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. Prior to the introduction of the 40-year rule, inmates convicted of capital crimes were eligible for parole after 15 or 20 years.
If parole is denied in the initial hearing, then the case is delayed for a period of up to two years, after which the inmate can reapply for parole. The length of the delay depends on the nature of the crime for which the person was convicted, and is automatically set at two years for capital murder cases.
In 2005, Texas also enacted a law that allowed those convicted of certain crimes, including killing a child or killing a police officer, to receive a life sentence with no possibility of parole. This legislation has led to a significant decrease in the number of people sentenced to death in the state.