No parolees for proposed guest house

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

HOWE, Tex. -- Speakers at a meeting Thursday say the director of the Texas Parole Board has told them, no in-or-out-of-state parolees will be permitted to live in the proposed guest house on Harrell Road.

In a meeting tonight at Howe High School, spokesman Bruce Dawsey announced members of their group, along with other area leaders, met with the director and deputy director of the Texas Parole Board. The two drove to Sherman from Austin for the meeting.

After expressing their concerns, the director said his office will not approve the home for parolees. The proposed home is not state-funded, so the parole board could not regulate the facility itself. However, the board approves facilities they deem appropriate for parolees.

Residents say they were thrilled when they heard the news.

"Oh I was just jumping up and down, and clapping, and smiling, and I even slept better,” says Virginia Rhea, laughing happily. Rhea and her husband live next door to the home, about 1000 feet away.

The home they are referring to is near Howe. It was purchased by Missouri-based Mission Gate Prison Ministries. The plan was to house parolees in a faith-based rehabilitation program. Mission Gate leaders say the residents would be professed, born-again Christians hand selected by a local committee.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition in opposition to the proposal. The community group, “Not in Grayson County,” also collected more than $10,000 to pay to hire and attorney and file an injunction against the property.

Group leaders say right now it appears they will not need to file suit, but they are keeping the funds in a reserve in case “there’s a surprise.” State Representative Larry Phillips and Senator Craig Estes both have said they plan to propose legislation in the next session to give county leaders control over halfway house type facilities in their area.

If such legislation passes, the lawsuit fund would also not be needed. In such case, group leaders say then plan to donate the funds to law enforcement agencies across Grayson County.

Through the entire process most of the residents have said while they think everyone deserves a second chance, the proposed guest house is too close to area homes and local children should not be exposed to parolees.

Sheriff Keith Gary also told the parole board director his office does not have enough manpower to properly watch the facility, while also patrolling the rest of Grayson County.

We're told Prison Gate Ministries has been notified of these actions. While they cannot house parolees at the home, they still own the property and could let anyone they choose who is not on parole live there.

Four Grayson County residents have also offered to buy the property from Prison Gate Ministries. In a previous conversation with KXII-TV, Prison Gate founder Rick Mathes said he would consider an offer as he is not out to “make a statement” in local communities.

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