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Graduates were honored by Mayor Jim Kenney on Wednesday along with several council members and representatives from the Mural Arts Philadelphia. — City of Philadelphia

The Mural Arts of Philadelphia honored the 2018 graduates of its Restorative Justice Guild program at City Hall on Wednesday.

The graduates were recognized by Mayor Jim Kenney along with several council members and the executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, Jane Golden.

Participants are referred to the program by the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership and the Philadelphia Prison System. The program has a record in reducing recidivism through its duration and the 18 months that follow, with a marginal rate of 15 percent compared with the statewide average of 35 percent.

The guild’s current rate of job placement and connection to secondary education for graduates is 85 percent.

“Everything we are doing is about reducing the population of people in the county jail,” Golden said. “So we bring awareness to issues like cash bail to diversion and alternatives to incarceration.”

The event was the winter closing ceremony. Participants have been working in the program since Jan. 9, learning about basic carpentry, scaffolding, life skills and parenting. The program is also a part-time job, with those involved making about $12.20 an hour.

Dawan Williams, program director of the Restorative Justice project, said the participants are paired near the end of the program and work on mural projects in the community.

Golden said there are some hopes that the Guild could work with Kenney’s Rebuild initiative because many participants have experience in transforming recreation centers.

She said she wants to enhance the carpentry sector of the Guild program and make sure the work focuses on restoring civic spaces in the city and large public art.

Golden said she is happy for the graduating class but has mixed feelings because tight-knit bonds were established.

“In a way, it’s like watching your family grow up and move on, and it’s like bittersweet,” she said. “I really feel that we become a family.”

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