The mission of Dismas House is to improve lives and strengthen communities by providing the formerly incarcerated with holistic reentry programming that breaks the cycle of incarceration.
The vision of Dismas House is to set the national standard for reentry success.
How We Do It
Ninety-five percent of those incarcerated in Tennessee will eventually be released to our communities and when they do, we must ask ourselves who we want them to be. Many returning citizens are ill-prepared to reenter the free world and lack the skills, education, and support necessary for sustainable success. In Tennessee, 70% of those released from prison will re-offend within three years, and roughly 50% will return to prison within three years. The Dismas House residential reentry program, a comprehensive program that extends beyond housing and employment, has proven to help stop the revolving door of recidivism. By using evidence-based practices that focus on the holistic needs of each resident, our program fosters lasting change from the inside-out.
Dismas House has two core programs – our main Reentry Program and an Independent Living Program. Founded in 1974, Dismas House moved from an eight-bed home to a new 72-bed campus in April 2020. The new building has 56 reentry program beds and 16 independent living units.
Along with this physical expansion and an exponential increase in the numbers of men served came an intentional re-envisioning, redesign, and diversification of our program offerings with an emphasis on supporting the whole person. We offer our residents a wide array of services that are offered by Dismas House staff or through our many partnerships and collaborations with outside service and program providers.
Dismas House is an approved Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) residential reentry program in Nashville that serves men returning to the community directly from all state correctional facilities for men and county jails throughout Tennessee. The minimum length of stay to complete the Dismas House Reentry Program is 90 days. Our goal is to support these men as they navigate the challenging transition from prison back to the community and help them overcome the many barriers to successful reentry. We provide our residents with a uniquely warm and family-like atmosphere, in addition to a comprehensive selection of services we cluster under the umbrella of our “Four Pillars of Programming,” which are 1) basic needs, 2) health and well-being, 3) life skills, and 4) legal support.
Dismas has so many relationships, and we benefit from them so much. The best part about it is, they don’t hinder us, they are a platform for us to get to the next level.
I was honestly frustrated to be told I had to go to a halfway house. I thought, I will do the 90 days and get out. But, within 2-3 days of being here I knew I was going to stay as long as I could. This campus is beautiful. Tt feels like you’re in a home and not in an institution anymore.
I can’t believe how much the Dismas staff care about my success. It really does make me feel like we’re all family.
Pillars of Programming: The Dismas Model
Over the past 4+ decades, we’ve continued to grow and evolve as we learn the most effective ways to support and empower men as they transition back into the community. Our services include:
- Basic Needs – We provide food, shelter, clothing, and transportation for residents, which gives them the secure and stable foundation needed to adjust and grow. Residents have ready access to food, and community volunteers prepare evening dinners Monday through Thursday. Program housing units are fully furnished with 2 residents per room and a shared bath. Every new resident receives a basic needs package upon arrival containing toiletries, a few household items, and 3 days of clothing. We provide food, shelter, clothing, and transportation for residents.
- Health & Well-Being – We take a trauma-informed approach to the care of our residents, many of whom are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. Our comprehensive mental health program includes on-site individual, family and group therapy on a weekly basis. Substance use disorders are addressed through our Recovery track programming that includes daily 12-step meetings and detailed relapse prevention plans. Additionally, our residents receive free healthcare that includes physical, dental, and eye exams, and benefit from weekly wellness classes like yoga, CrossFit, and daily meditation are provided to improve physical and mental well-being. Skill-based groups, like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), help residents practice emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, and distress tolerance skills. The project is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
- Life Skills – Case managers work with residents on short- and long-term goals, transition plans, gaining employment, and achieving academic goals such as HiSET and earning/completing a college degree or vocational certificate. Job readiness training and weekly finance and technology classes help residents gain financial footing and be better prepared to join the 21st-century workforce. Interpersonal communication skills are practiced through participation in community events, group meetings, engagement with mentors, and our volunteer-hosted community dinners.
- Legal Support – Through partnerships, residents regularly meet with Legal Aid Society and specialized attorneys that provide individualized support that includes, in part, expungements, driver’s license reinstatement, restoration of voting rights, reduction and payment of fines and fees, and resolving child support issues.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement
At Dismas House of Nashville we have established and operate within a culture of dignity, respect and fairness as we celebrate the diversity and unique differences of every individual we welcome into our community.
As advocates for social justice across the state of Tennessee, we seek to improve the lives of formerly incarcerated men who deserve a second chance.
We realize that for some of our residents, overcoming the stigma of prison is further complicated by racial injustices against people of color. For 49 years, Dismas House of Nashville has worked diligently to foster community awareness and understanding of the challenges and obstacles formerly incarcerated men face upon reentry.
We strive to develop programming that cultivates inclusion of all individuals so they feel involved, respected, treated with dignity and supported regardless of background as they begin their transition back into the community.