RoShawn Evans Embarks on Mission to Support Those At Risk for Conviction
Senior Named UHD Political Science Student of the Year
By Mike Emery
RoShawn Evans defied the odds. He was once jailed, but through strength and perseverance he emerged from the corrections system ready to make a change in the world.
And he’s doing just that thanks to his education at the University of Houston-Downtown. In fact, Evans was recently named UHD’s Political Science Student of the Year.
“I was in class, and my phone started blowing up,” he said. “People were texting me telling me I received this award. It was quite a surprise, and I am honored to be recognized for my work at UHD.”
While his academic performance is certainly noteworthy, it is Evans’ contributions to the community that are helping so many Houstonians overcome the same challenges he once faced.
Evans is co-founder of the nonprofit organization Pure Justice. The group advocates for criminal justice reform and supports communities that are at risk for incarceration. The group includes families of those who are behind bars and individuals who may have served time under questionable circumstances or were wrongly convicted. Among its initiatives are workshops addressing citizens’ rights and how state and local governments are structured. It also assists with legal counsel and support for community members who might not be able to afford the services of a lawyer.
“We work to bring fairness and equity to the criminal justice system, as well as create economic opportunity for marginalized groups,” Evans said. “We also empower our group’s members to advocate for themselves … whether it’s through educational opportunities or other means.”
The organization has partnered with other community organizations for events in Houston, and Evans emphasizes the need for groups like Pure Justice here in Houston. Still, the road to start this local nonprofit was one filled with physical and emotional challenges.
Evans documents his trials with the criminal justice system in his book “Stolen Identity – 1953521.” The book follows his journey from being convicted to his emergence from incarceration with a mission to help others who have been in the same situation.
Unfortunately, convictions of people of color have become commonplace. The National Registry of Exonerations has reported that people of color are more likely to be wrongly convicted and spend more time in prison than others before being exonerated.
“Before I got to this point, the criminal justice system broke me down,” Evans said. “I was at a place in my life where I had just given up. The people around me didn’t even recognize me because I was a different person. It took me a while to realize that the worst thing that ever happened to me became one of the best things to happen to me … because now I can help make a difference for others.”
A native of Flint, Michigan, Evans relocated to Houston to escape the cold winters. Despite this year’s historic freeze in Texas, he has appreciated the warmth of Houston’s climate and its residents. He also is grateful for the welcoming atmosphere provided by UHD and its outstanding faculty.
“I’ve attended a few other colleges, but the professors at UHD are my favorite teachers,” said Evans, who is set to graduate this summer. “They really want the students to succeed and are there for us when we need them. It’s been an amazing experience, and I am grateful to be a part of the University.”
In addition to Evans’ Political Science Student of the Year award from UHD, he recently earned certifications from the National Center for Leadership and Success. Next up for Evans is law school. He said the classes at UHD have prepared him for that next chapter in his life, as well as supporting those who need assistance from both him and Pure Justice right now.
“My advice to my fellow UHD students … or those about to enter college is to follow your passion,” he said. “Follow your passion and make a career out of it. That’s the best way to make an impact in any industry and in your community. When you follow your heart, you’ll bring love into your career … whether it’s in criminal justice, health care, education, or anything. And that’s what we need right now in this world … more love.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.