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The original item was published from 2/9/2016 2:49:56 PM to 3/1/2016 12:05:02 AM.

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Human Services

Posted on: February 9, 2016

[ARCHIVED] Community Arts & Reintegration Project seeks to lower recidivism rates and revitalize communities

9 February 2016

GREENSBURG, PA – Pitt-Greensburg’s Center for Applied Research (CFAR) will host representatives from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program on Friday, February 12, in Ferguson Theater (Smith Hall, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, 150 Finoli Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601). The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be followed by a hors d’oeuvres reception in the Smith Hall Lounge. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested and may be completed at

The event, part of CFAR’s Community Arts & Reintegration Project (CARP) in Westmoreland County, is funded by the Richard King Mellon/Community Foundation of Westmoreland County Impact Fund, affiliated with The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The Community Arts & Reintegration Project (CARP) in Westmoreland County is an initial step in building collaboration among multiple organizations and individuals for a large-scale community revitalization initiative. Described as a restorative-justice-based program, CARP is working to bring together community members and organizations, victims and victim advocates, and both recently released and currently incarcerated inmates to develop and construct murals to be placed on buildings in targeted cities throughout Westmoreland County.

The goals of CARP are to develop a model of inmate re-entry that utilizes evidence-based programming in limiting recidivism while building a sense of collective efficacy by giving all involved in the process and all who see the murals, a feeling of pride in their community. Timothy Holler, PhD, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Pitt-Greensburg, is director of CARP and an affiliate faculty member with CFAR.

CARP is using the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the largest community arts program in the country, as a model for its initiative. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program prepares inmates, participants, and young adults on probation for successful re-integration into their communities while incorporating the concepts of restorative justice through art instruction, mural making, and community service work. The program has proven successful in reducing recidivism by posting a rate of only 13.5 percent versus the national average of 67.5 percent.

Representing the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program at the February 12 event will be Will Cooper-Balis, LSW, and Dawan Williams.

Cooper-Balis is the Case Manager and Job Developer for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Restorative Justice Guild Program. The Guild consists of young men and women who are either currently incarcerated or on high-risk probation. These young men and women take part in community revitalization efforts and the painting of murals throughout Philadelphia. While attending the University of Pennsylvania to obtain his MSW, Cooper-Balis was an intern in the Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI), where he assisted clients with their reentry and developed a problem-posing group for men incarcerated at the Cambria Community Center. Prior to his graduate studies, Cooper-Balis attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he worked as an intern in an intensive in-patient facility for individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Williams is the Program Coordinator for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Restorative Justice Guild program. He works closely with the program participants who are at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 24. Williams serves as both a supervisor and a mentor. A certified life-skills professional, he works closely with returning citizens on a day-to-day basis and is an active member of several non-profit organizations in Philadelphia that are dedicated to uniting families and strengthening communities. He utilizes his personal experiences within the criminal justice system to help him connect with the Guild’s youth participants.

Pitt-Greensburg’s Center for Applied Research has conducted research for Westmoreland County criminal justice officials that identified inmate re-entry as a focal point for the community. This led to the creation of the Community Arts Reintegration Project. The project is in its first phase of development and planning. Relevant stakeholders throughout the region will be invited to take part in the decision-making processes of the programming design and implementation.

Adults who are currently incarcerated or those who have recently been released from incarceration are expected to be the primary participants in CARP’s community revitalization projects. The program may also target juveniles and specialty court offenders as part of a community service project. CARP will allow these individuals to turn idle time into positive community-focused projects, as evidenced by the City of Philadelphia Mural Project. Meetings with victims and victims’ advocates, community members, and programming staff are part of the process in order to address the harms and needs caused by criminal events, providing a means for the community to collectively heal and grow as a community.

Anyone interested in learning more about CARP and how they can become involved in this restorative justice program should contact Timothy Holler, PhD, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Pitt-Greensburg, at 724-8336-7151.

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