Many ex-prisoners have no secure home to return to, inadequate employment preparation and opportunity, and a negative self-image. The likelihood of the repeating of crimes is great, particularly at the time of transition, and the resulting cost to the community and to themselves and their families is high. In fact the crime repeat rate in Vermont exceeds 50% and places a great burden on a prison system that is already overburdened.
What Dismas House Means to Me
C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian apologist of the 1940’s spoke of life as a race. He uses a metaphor of a runner with a backpack striving to return home. The race starts with an event called birth and ends with another event called death. He advised the reader not to judge another’s progress in the race as we follow different paths. We each carry different weights in our pack back.
Some of us look like great successes, running on flat straight road with feathers in the backpack on a sunny temperate day. Others of us look like great failures. We run with rocks in our backpack on windy, rugged roads, first in the swamps, then on hills. Most of us I expect find a combination of both conditions on our journey.
Some of these circumstances arise from our own poor decision making. Why is the lot of humans that they will knowingly make a decision that is against their own best interest? We finally get onto the flat sunny road only to make a poor choice and return to the swamp. Sometimes we end up on the hilly roads because of the challenges caused by another’s failing. For unexplained reasons we must bear the consequences of another’s mistakes.
I visit Dismas House on the third Friday of the month several times a year to have dinner with the residents. Unless, I have met the resident at an earlier time, I have difficulty telling the students from the former inmates. Sometimes, the resident will be both. Each of former inmates travels a rough road. Their life experiences often reflect difficult challenges and poor choices in meeting them. These residents do not travel on a smooth flat path carrying an empty backpack in the sunlight. Sometimes they bear the burden of another’s failure to provide them with the essentials needed for a healthy caring life. Yet, these are life’s quiet heroes. They offer silent statements to the strength of the human spirit to overcome great adversity. They carry on, getting up after each slip in the swamp. They do not quit when the grade of the hill increases. They succeed by not letting apparent failure overcome them. They are spiritual athletes.
I draw strength from them on each visit, strength I need for my own journey.
Edward J. Cashman
Vermont District Court Judge
Dismas Volunteer since 1986