“We Can Do This.”
Dismas Home Helps To Reduce the Recidivism Rate for Women in New Hampshire
Reentry is complex. A woman released from prison faces a society that has branded her a felon. She may be coping with a history of substance abuse disorder, along with co-occurring mental disorder, often the result of trauma. While many wives will stand by husbands in prison, the reverse isn’t usually true. No support system. No tools to help her cope with the life circumstances that brought her to prison in the first place. And often no home to go to. Is it any wonder women so often end up back inside?
“Volunteering behind the walls of a New Hampshire prison for almost 10 years, my husband, Jack, and I came to ask each other why the recidivism rate was so high,” said Julie McCarthy Brown, a member of the Order of Malta Boston Area. Seeing a newspaper article about the opening of Dismas House in Vermont got them thinking about creating something similar in New Hampshire. “So we prayed over it for probably three weeks before we looked at each other and said, ‘We can do this.’”
With seed money of $2,000 and a dedicated board of directors, they set about developing a specialized program. In 2015, Dismas Home of New Hampshire opened. Highly trained professionals give women tools to help them reenter their communities. The program has been successful in unifying families and breaking the recidivism cycle.
The use of the word “home” instead of “house” was no accident. “We wanted to create a home-like environment, which many former felons have never had,” Julie said. Thoughtful touches like lace curtains, a comfortable sofa and a kitchen where the residents can cook and bake help make Dismas Home truly a home.
Jack has since passed to the Lord, but Julie continues the work they started together. She sees the Holy Spirit moving through these women in the love they have for one another and through herself in the joy she gets from helping them. “The book of Proverbs tells us that ‘the human heart plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps,’” she said. “This is a good description of my journey with Dismas Home!
If you would like to learn more about the American Association’s Prison Ministry programs, please email Craig Gibson, Chair of the Prison Ministry Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.