FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2010
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications
Dismas of Vermont Founder to Speak at GMC Convocation September 2
POULTNEY, VT – In 1986, Vermont’s first Dismas House opened in Burlington. With a mission to “reconcile prisoners with society and society with prisoners,” the house brings non-offenders, often college students, together with former prisoners to live side-by-side in a supportive community. Dismas of Vermont has since expanded to include residential locations in Rutland and Winooski and two satellite apartment programs, successfully reintegrating hundreds of former prisoners into society.
Green Mountain College is pleased to welcome Rita McCaffrey, founder and retired executive director of Dismas of Vermont, as the keynote speaker for the 2010 convocation ceremony Thursday, Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. on the Griswold Library lawn.
McCaffrey has been a tireless advocate for restorative justice for over 35 years. In 1974 she founded the Thresholds/Decisions Program, which helps prisoners and parolees learn life-planning skills. She discovered the Dismas model through her mentor, Rev. Jack Hickey, OP, a chaplain at Vanderbilt University. He conceived of a model where students and former prisoners live together, practice consensus decision-making, and involve local volunteers in preparing and sharing meals. The goal is to rebuild the relationship between the community and the former prisoner. Today, 78 percent of residents who live at Dismas of Vermont locations for at least three months transition successfully back into society.
Throughout the years McCaffrey has been honored many times for her work. In 1987, she was named Vermont Mother of the Year and later the same year earned the title of National Mother of the Year from American Mothers Inc. This year she received the 2010 Mercy Connections Catherine McAuley Award and the Fr. Jack Hickey, OP Award from Dismas of Vermont.
McCaffrey graduated from Trinity College of Vermont and lives in Weston, Vt., on the grounds of the Weston Priory.