Our History

From humble beginnings, a national leader

It was 1964 and Father William Diersen, a Roman Catholic priest and Chaplain at the Kentucky State Reformatory, was frustrated by the seemingly “revolving door” of people returned to prison for violating conditions of their release. He understood — like few others at the time — that without the necessary job, life skills and a support structure, individuals tend to return to a life of crime, which leads to more victimization.

Father Diersen also knew that to effect change would not be easy. The criminal justice system itself was rife with abuse, and offenders were feared and stigmatized by the public. But Father Diersen’s character, focus, and unbending will persisted. With the help of the five Louisville Councils of the Knights of Columbus, Father Diersen opened a 15-bed re-entry facility — or “halfway house” as it was then known — staffed with volunteers. He called the facility Dismas, so named for the repentant thief who was crucified with Christ.

About our logo

The Dismas logo is a representation of the beautiful rose window discovered at our very first facility in Louisville, Kentucky. To create a place of healing and restoration, Dismas renovated this former church, and in the process, moved and restored this beautiful rose window.

Immediately, we realized how this process of restoring and seeing something from a new perspective represented what we do on a daily basis with our residents.

Since then, the concept of the window and the light it brings has been our logo and a strong symbol for what we do, including the name for our newsletter to the communities we serve, The Light.