Texas Department of Criminal Justice withdraws halfway house request

Last Thursday evening, Dam B Community Watch hosted the Restorative Justice Ministry Family Center, an organization that is trying to establish a halfway house in the Dam B community.

The effort to open the facility, which plans to occupy a former hotel and restaurant on Highway 190, came to the fore after community watchdog raised concerns about a pending application who was before the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s parole division for the operation of the facility.

Over the past few weeks, concerns from Community Watch, Morgan Williams of the Tyler County District Attorney’s Office, and Deputy Don Calhoon of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office have made their way to the Representative’s Office. State James White.

After review, White asked TDCJ to withdraw RJMFC’s candidacy due to questions and concerns raised by his constituents. The app was taken down by TDCJ earlier this week.

“The app could be re-released, but there would be a lot more transparency and community involvement,” White said.

After the request was withdrawn, RJMFC President James Edward contacted the Dam B group to answer questions from the group. He and board member Earl Williams were present at the Community Watch meeting.

Edward began by telling the group that RJMFC operated a mediation center in Woodville in the early 2000s.

He claimed a long-standing relationship with Tyler County, but that facility was no longer in operation. He went on to say, “Our organization is entirely voluntary and we operate as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.”

He explained that the purpose of the transition center was to provide a place for parolees who have nowhere to go when they get out of prison. After Edward’s brief introduction, Community Watch members posed their questions.

The questions ranged from “Why put the facility in Dam B?” Where do you expect residents to work? How will residents be transported to work and other functions?

“How can bringing people into a community that has been known in the past for drugs and other issues be a place that would be a good fit for a halfway house?”

As the questions continued, the atmosphere became more tense, especially as Edward said that many of the group’s questions were unanswered because the RJMFC Board of Directors did not. had not fully discussed all the details and needed clarification on some issues from the TDCJ Parole Division.

Edward’s responses did little to appease the Community Watch members who were present. Community Watch contacted RJMFC over two years ago once they were made aware of the possibility of a halfway house.

Community Watch asked representatives to come to a meeting and submitted questions that Community Watch members wanted answered.

There were several attempts to invite RJMFC to meetings by the Dam B group and no response was ever received other than to decline the invitation. Thursday night’s meeting was the first time an RJMFC representative has appeared or responded to Community Watch.

There were also questions about people claiming to raise funds on behalf of the RJMFC group. They pretended to be the management of the establishment.

Edward knew nothing of the actions of these individuals and repeatedly stated that neither had the authority to represent RJMFC. Questions about vetting these and other volunteers have been raised.

Several people were visibly upset to believe that these individuals were in fact associated with the RJMFC and the halfway house.

Edward invited Community Watch members to the next meeting of the RJMFC Board of Directors which is scheduled for January 22 at noon at the Dam B facility.

Edward concluded the meeting by saying, “RJMFC will not be filing its petition with TDCJ until everything is settled and all community concerns are resolved.”

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