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Mural Arts Symposium Focuses On Art’s Anti-Crime Role in Society

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program held its 2012 “Arts and Criminal Justice Symposium” this afternoon in center city Philadelphia, part of its efforts to teach community groups how to use art to rehabilitate those both in and outside of the prison system.

“People should care, because crime is happening,” said Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program.  “And we want to be, at the end of the day, a safer city.”

Golden says that over the past five years, the organization has expanded its work in restorative justice:

“We’re working at Graterford, (in) the Philadelphia prisons, we have a re-entry program and, thanks to the Department of Human Services, we’re at the Youth Study Center and St. Gabriel’s Hall.”

Golden says that groups and individuals from throughout the region attended the symposium, which was funded by the Ford Foundation.  She says the goal was to demonstrate how art and training can give inmates and ex-offenders new hope.

“So many people who go in and come out and reoffend,” she notes.  “We have to think about other options.  By doing art in public spaces, that’s a part of restorative justice. People can make amends.  We can help build a bridge between the community and the offender.  We can help the community acclimate to the fact the people are returning to the neighborhood.”

Golden says that only 10 to 15 percent of the men who go through the Mural Arts’ Guild program re-offend, compared to a national average of 66 percent.

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