By Chris Edwards
DAM B – A facility in Dam B that is setting up as a halfway house for ex-offenders has caused many residents in the area to ask questions and pose concerns.
The facility, which bears the name “RJMFSC, No Lost Cause,” will, according to one of its spokespersons, provide a faith-based approach to helping parolees get back on their feet. The facility will be based out of a property that was once a motel and restaurant east of the four-way stop that marks the intersection of US 190 and FM 92.
The acronym stands for Restorative Justice Ministry Family Services Center and was established as a non-profit in 2003 by John Morrison. “No Lost Cause” is the name of the program which will be used to rehabilitate parolees in the program, according to a Facebook post from Doneal Nicholson, who will work as an on-site manager.
RJMFSC once operated a mediation center in Woodville when Morrison was chairman of the non-profit of the same name. According to Nicholson, the site in Dam B had not been used in 15 years, but a donation helped with much of the remodeling work that needed to be done to the property.
“We have tried to get them to talk to us…they won’t talk to us,” said Glen Kenney of the Dam B Community Watch Group (DBCW).
The DBCW invited representatives from the facility to its monthly meeting, which took place on Thursday, Dec. 16, but no one from RJMFSC appeared. Kenney said the group has a list of questions pertaining to the facility, which have yet to be addressed.
Ron Goodwin, who serves as executive director for the statewide Restorative Justice Ministries Network (RJMN) said that the statewide organization serves in an advisory capacity for localized organizations and facilities like the one opening in Dam B.
Goodwin said that he advised the facility’s principals to put together a town-hall type meeting as soon as all “the ducks are in a row” concerning the licensing and legalities of the facility’s operation.
“You want to make sure that the public’s safety is assured,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin also added that with the facility’s possible success, transparency with the community is key. “The success upon that project will depend upon how involved they are with community,” he said.
Goodwin said that with faith-based programs such as the residential model that the facility plans to utilize, recidivism rates have continued to drop. “It’s smart justice,” he said.
Rev. James Edwards, who is listed as chairman for the non-profit, stressed that the program is still in its infancy, and all of the work that has been done thus far was made possible entirely through donations.
“We want to make sure the requirements set forth by the state are in place,” Edwards said.
Edwards explained that he, and the other organizers of the RJMFSC want to involve the community, once it is all set up.
“When everything is lined up, I want to be able to come to the [DBCW] and show them what we want to do and to be able to answer any questions they might have,” he said.
Both Edwards and Goodwin said that some of the information put out on social media about the facility was done prematurely, and Edwards emphasized that all of the necessary paperwork is not in order to open its doors.
One question that DBCW posed about the halfway house pertains to the type of offenders who would be eligible for the program. Edwards said that all parolees who are interested in participating will have to meet some requirements and be a part of a faith-based organization.
Another factor that has been expressed publicly by DBCW is the fact that both Nicholson and Morrison are ex-offenders, both of whom were convicted of sex crimes. Morrison, who established the non-profit prior to his conviction, is listed on public records as a point of contact for the non-profit, but not on its most recent available 990 EZ form from the IRS (its 2019 filing).
Edwards said he understood the apprehension concerning the role of ex-offenders in the facility, among the other concerns, but said that in prisons, many offenders take part in faith-based programs and continue to volunteer in such programs following parole.
Edwards said he has been involved in prison volunteering and ministry since 2008 and sees the goals of the Dam B facility as serving a need in the area.
“I’m involved in this because this is what the Lord put in my spirit to do,” he said.
Edwards also addressed the perceived lack of transparency from the community. He said he was only now aware of some of the questions and concerns from the DBCW group.
“What we’re trying to do, I want it all to be clear as glass. Nothing will be swept under the rug,” he said.
Goodwin said that community involvement is paramount but will take time.
“Reassuring the community just takes time, but with the community efforts to support and help, it would open a lot more hearts,” he said.
DBCW has also posted, publicly, its concerns and questions concerning the facility on its Facebook page and has opened up the conversation to the community to gather its thoughts.