The Dismas Message in the Czech Republic! – Zuzana Schmidt

Burlington Dismas House was truly a life-changing experience for me. I came in the summer of 2009 as a Volunteer for Peace without really knowing what I had signed up for! In the Czech Republic we don´t have such community oriented programs like Dismas. However, I was thrilled with what I found: the transitional housing program Dismas offers former prisoners is very effective.

Fascinated, but not really knowing much about the U.S. criminal justice system and the prison system more specifically, I started my graduate studies when I returned to the Czech Republic. As a result I finished 2 master degrees: US. History and Policy where I concentrated on the way the US prison system works, with my master thesis  titled ”Women in the US Prison System”; the second MA I pursued was for Management of Nonprofit Organizations with my master thesis titled “The Differences Between Czech and U.S. Re-socialization of Ex-offenders”. I have never really left the field I started to explore at Dismas!

Dismas and the beautiful people who work and volunteer there have deeply influenced both me and what I believe is right and what is needed. Two friends and I have started a nonprofit organization based in Prague to help ex-offenders get a fresh start and where we try to apply what I have learned from the Dismas model.

I created ties and friendships at Dismas that I never dreamed of, and I try to come to Vermont every year to visit Burlington, Dismas and the enthusiastic people I have been blessed to know there.


Caption: Zuzana helping to pack up for the Summer Retreat in 2009.