Our History

It All Started With a Question: “What If…?”

In 1974, Father Jack Hickey and a group of Vanderbilt University students came up with an idea: “What if,” they asked, “we could create a safe haven where we could share a home with formerly incarcerated men transitioning out of prison—a place that would build a deeper sense of community for both parties and would help returning citizens find supportive services, obtain jobs, and become full and successful participants in the larger society?”

As Father Hickey saw it, college students and formerly incarcerated are at a similar stage in life—searching for their place in the world and identifying how they’ll contribute to society. He believed each could benefit and learn from the other.
As a symbol of the kind of place they envisioned, the founders looked to the name Dismas, which, according to Christian tradition, was associated with the “penitent thief” who was crucified alongside Jesus and became reconciled to God.

A Lasting Legacy

Father Hickey believed his role was to stand in compassion with men and women who struggle—not only with the pains and indignities of incarceration, but from all of life’s ordeals. He was gifted in his ability to inspire others to “stand with those who struggle,” and to build family-like communities that supported, and benefited from, every member.

Founded as a reentry community for women and men, Dismas House of Nashville has inspired the creation of Dismas Houses in the Southwest, New England, and Northern Ireland.

Today we are a 72-bed campus which includes 16 transitional housing units for residents needing more time to work on their transition plan. Using our proven Pillars of Programming, we have the capacity to serve over 175residents per year. As a Tennessee reentry program provider, it is our vision that residents remain free and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society.