No Redemption

A child molester wants back into society and the American dream

"My mission stays the same. My method is evolving," he says, sitting on the couch in his living room. It's four days till move-out. His wife sits beside him; the kids are upstairs and their cousins are visiting.

He's decided another approach is needed. He's printed up flyers calling for an "Action Meeting! Criminal Conviction holding you back?"

His organization, the Redeemed Restored Citizens of America (RRCA), will be gathering at the Community of Faith Church, 1023 Pinemont, in far north Houston, where his brother (who is also a Wal-Mart manager) is a minister.

Jamil Crowley is counting on Americans' sense of fair play to give him and others like him a second chance.
Margaret Downing
Jamil Crowley is counting on Americans' sense of fair play to give him and others like him a second chance.

This way, Jamil explains, he could count on an audience sympathetic to his cause. If he distributes 5,000 flyers, he figures he'll get 100 to 200 people there, and if they each donate $10 to $20 to the cause, he'll be able to buy a laptop and maybe a camera to document how people's lives are being ruined.

The meeting will be on October 8. Even losing his home, he's trying to hold on to the telephone number there. It's the one listed on the flyer.

His mom calls all the time. She wants him to quit the crusade, certain that calling attention to himself will just get her son hurt. She wants them to put the kids back in public school so his wife can go to work. She seems certain that heartbreak is ahead.

Jamil remains resolute. He wants to know what the country is going to do with all its convicted felons. A large number of them are in their twenties. What are they supposed to do for the rest of their lives if they're barred from jobs and housing? Does this mean their families can live in only the worst neighborhoods?

And people think this is a black thing, he says. It's not; referring to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, he points out there are more incarcerated whites than blacks. "We've got to put a face on this. We have to show families, children."

He is optimistic that the American people will see that continuing to punish someone and his family for something he did ten or 20 years ago, with no continuing criminal behavior since then, is unfair. If the courts order people into counseling, then why doesn't any accompanying better behavior come with improved privileges, he asks.

In May, Bill Cosby came to Texas Southern University to deliver his speech on how black families need to emphasize education more. During that event, a full scholarship was offered to a student from Houston Community College, an ex-con who'd righted his life. Jamil refers to that to make his point. Yes, it was an emotional high point, and yes, it's great that guy will get a free education, he says. But will he be able to find a job with his record?

At the last minute, Jamil's plans to become homeless change. They're moving in with his brother the minister. Over the weekend Jamil donates blood twice, looking for gas money to keep going.

Jamil has decided to tell people right off that he's a convicted child molester. It's a power thing, he explains. Once you've said that, people don't have any leverage over you. You've said the worst yourself.

The question is: What are they going to say next?

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