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Dismas Under Way In Hartford

  • Bob Latiolais of All Seasons Construction cuts a piece of plywood while working on renovations at Dismas House in Hartford, Vt. on Nov. 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Bob Latiolais of All Seasons Construction cuts a piece of plywood while working on renovations at Dismas House in Hartford, Vt. on Nov. 22, 2013.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt.,  on Nov. 22, 2013. Jeff Hoague, of Green Mountain Sprinkler, was building the sprinkler system in the building.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt., on Nov. 22, 2013. Jeff Hoague, of Green Mountain Sprinkler, was building the sprinkler system in the building.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt.,  on Nov. 22. 2013. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt., on Nov. 22. 2013.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Latiolais of All Seasons Construction cuts a piece of plywood while working on renovations at Dismas House in Hartford, Vt. on Nov. 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt.,  on Nov. 22, 2013. Jeff Hoague, of Green Mountain Sprinkler, was building the sprinkler system in the building.<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • The Dismas House, a home that will be used to transition prisoners from incarceration to community living, is being renovated in Hartford, Vt.,  on Nov. 22. 2013. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Hartford — Housing meant to help former prison inmates transition from incarceration to community living is slated to open in Hartford Village this winter.

Dismas of Vermont, a nonprofit agency that operates three other transitional residences, is halfway through with the extensive renovations of an 140-year-old house on Maple Street.

Project superintendent Scott Strong, of All Seasons Construction in Springfield, last week said workers are in the framing stage on the Hartford Dismas House, while subcontractors work on plumbing and electrical systems, among other improvements.

“Construction is going not too bad,” Strong said, noting the project is in its seventh week.

Workers were inside the building late last week shaving down spray foam insulation that was recently installed and filling crevasses with caulking.

“You get surprises in these old buildings — things you didn’t plan on,” Strong said, noting that work likely will be finished a few weeks later than expected. .

In this case, the building previously had been divided into apartments, Strong said.

“We still have a little ways to go,” he added .

Jan Tarjan, Dismas of Vermont’s executive director, said she expects the Hartford house will have its first residents sometime during the winter. The home could accommodate up to 11 former prisoners at one time.

A 12th person, someone who isn’t transitioning from prison, such as a college student, also will live inside the house.

“It’s part of the whole idea of normalizing behavior,” Tarjan said.

“There is no overnight supervision,” she added. “We haven’t created a jail there.”

The nonprofit is within $20,000 of raising the roughly $450,000 needed for the renovation, Tarjan said.

“We have one more $10,000 gift that we have to match and then we will be finished,” she said, adding that several community supporters sent in large donations and hundreds more sent in small donations.

Dismas received approval for the residence from the town in summer 2011. Shortly after that initial decision, the leaders of a nearby church filed an appeal, arguing students, parents and residents would feel uncomfortable with Dismas House nearby.

The legal fight went to the Vermont Environmental Court, which upheld the town approvals .

Tarjan said Dismas House will give former prisoners a second chance. She said many of the individuals who stay at Dismas are furloughed from prison — or discharged with conditions of release — but are still supervised.

She said some individuals may transition into a category of requiring less supervision from parole and probation officers while they are at Dismas, and some may even finish their full sentences while they are there.

Dismas officials review each application three times, and don’t allow convicted sex offenders to live in the house.

“People who are coming out of incarceration are getting a fresh start,” she said. “And you can’t get started without a place to live.”

Tarjan said the state requires individuals who are transitioning out of prison before their sentence is fully completed to have a stable place to live as a condition of release . Hartford’s Dismas House will help bridge that gap for many furloughed inmates who are authorized to be released, but don’t have a place to go.

“I think we are demonstrating a creative way to reduce the incarceration rate,” Tarjan said. “That is important because over-incarceration really does pull apart families, communities, and it essentially reduces the resources because these individuals aren’t out there to work and be productive in the community.”

Work crews from Hartford Probation and Parole and the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor helped demolish the interior of the building and will return in December to further assist in the rehabilitation efforts, Strong said.

It costs roughly $59,000 per year per inmate to stay inside a Vermont prison, Tarjan said. To house an individual at a Dismas House, she said it costs roughly $19,000 per year.

Former prisoners staying at Dismas are required to pay a program fee of $75 a week. Tarjan said the individuals are asked to commit to a minimum of a three-month stay.

“Of the residents who stay with us at least three months, of those, 68 to 75 percent of them do transition into their own housing,” Tarjan said. “That means a whole lot when you think about it in the context of how hard it is to come out of prison.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.