Manchester Dismas Home: Bridge to a new life for women after incarceration

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MANCHESTER, NH — A New Hampshire couple is meeting the need of women facing uncertainty after release from prison with a faith-based outreach to fill the gaps that currently exist in the New Hampshire prison system.

It’s a system which too-often leads back to a return to a life of incarceration.

Jack and Julie McCarthy of North Sutton have established the Manchester Dismas Home as a way to combat the state’s high-rate of recidivism and, more importantly, to return some humanity to those who have fallen through the cracks of the current prison system.

It is a non-profit volunteer-run residential home for the formerly incarcerated to “transform their lives” by living in a “loving environment that prepares them to be reintroduced into society.”

Dismas House Manchester, 102 Fourth St., should be operating in early 2016.
Dismas House Manchester, 102 Fourth St., should be operating in early 2016.

The Dismas Homes model for transitional living, post-prison, has been in place for decades and has worked elsewhere to effectively reduce the rate of recidivism, which in New Hampshire is around 60 percent, according to Jack McCarthy.

He explains that the origin of the name “Dismas” comes from the story of the repentant thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus, whose name was Dismas, according to the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus.

The purpose of the program is four-fold:

  • To provide a successful transition back into the community to become contributors to society
  • To lower the recidivism rate
  • To strengthening families by assisting their loved ones in their reentry
  • To save hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money through the reduction of the recidivism rate
Jack and Julie McCarthy
Jack and Julie McCarthy

Another part of the vision includes establishing more Dismas Home residences on the outskirts of various colleges or universities in New Hampshire, allowing students to participate in the process of community service. Saint Anselm College students and faculty are already engaged in the preparations for Manchester Dismas Home.

The McCarthys have been involved in prison ministry in New Hampshire for years as volunteers with the Kairos and Aid for Incarcerated Marriages (AIM) programs. They say that experience has taught them about the many challenges facing incarcerated individuals and their families.

Over the years, they developed a growing appreciation for the need to address the very real problem of recidivism, the rate at which the formerly incarcerated return to prison. In 2014 they founded Dismas Home of New Hampshire, a program which also operates in Vermont and Massachusetts.

The four-bedroom Manchester Dismas Home is located on Fourth Street. It is currently under renovation and is set to open early in 2016, through the support of a local charitable organization that wishes to remain behind the scenes. It can house up to eight women, and has a large dining room, gathering room and kitchen, a screened-in porch and outdoor sitting area, and is situated next to the rail trail, which provides an outlet for walking or cycling.

To volunteer, donate or learn more about Manchester Dismas Home, click here.

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!