Everyone deserves a second chance. But so often those most in need of one face the biggest challenges. When an inmate is released from a New Mexico prison they typically get little more than a bus ticket to Albuquerque. They have no support network, no transportation, no food or shelter and, of course, no job.
The end result is often a return to incarceration. Over a three year period the New Mexico rate of recidivism (former inmates who return to prison) is 46%. Nearly half who had exited the system are back in, and at a great cost to the State of New Mexico, and ultimately we, the taxpayers.
Contrast this with the 90% success stories from Dismas House of New Mexico. This small non-profit agency operates on a shoestring budget. 86% of contributions go directly to programs to help former inmates re-enter society. Their stated mission is “to assist motivated adults on probation and parole to transition successfully into society.” They utilize a residential program and help those in the program with job-seeking assistance, meals, bus passes and lifestyle change opportunities that include help in overcoming drug and alcohol problems and building self-esteem through spiritual encouragement.
This is a difficult holiday season for Dismas House as they are faced with the same difficulties as other non-profits in this challenging economic time. People are giving less because they have less to give. Yet the needs are not decreasing; it is just the opposite.
Rev. Rusty Smith, an Anglican priest, is the Executive Director of Dismas House. He has a big heart for inmates and has worked in prison ministry. His focus is on restorative justice. Offering second chances is the thrust of this operation and the small staff is dedicated to doing what they can to help change lives. They are not a huge operation affecting thousands upon thousands of individuals. They are touching a smaller number of men and women each year, but the impact is huge to those individuals, their families and our communities.
Visit the Dismas House website and read some of the resident stories. It will bring you hope in this Christmas Season. Jesus came to set the captives free and the work of Dismas House is an example of opening the locked gates that hold many hearts in bondage. Fear, anger and despair are natural for former inmates trying to re-integrate into society. Think of the challenges they are facing in finding a job at this time when competition is fiercer and jobs are scarcer. Times are hard right now and not everyone can give. But if you can give, consider a contribution to help this worthy non-profit organization. Your generosity will make your heart bigger as God works through you to help these men and women start new lives.
You can contact Dismas House by phone at 505-343-0746 or online. Visit the offices and thrift store at 4515 Central SE. The mailing address is P.O. Box6101, Albuquerque, NM 87197.