Take Charge of Your Health Today: Stopping the disease of violence


At the University of Pittsburgh, Professor Richard Garland, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BCHS), believes our country suffers from the disease of violence and he’s made it his mission to foster collaboration that can help stop its transmission in Pittsburgh. 

In addition to teaching courses at Pitt, Richard serves as the Director of the BCHS Center for Healthy Equity’s Violence Preventive Initiative. He oversees training, data collection, outreach efforts and more — all aimed at reducing crime and violence through structural invention that includes helping formerly incarcerated Black men and women re-enter their communities and avoid re-arrest.

It’s a formidable task. Two out of every three people released from U.S. prisons are rearrested for a new offense. About 50% of those individuals are reincarcerated within 3 years. In Pennsylvania, that percentage is 63%.

Initiatives include:

Reimagine ReEntry

Launched three years ago as a separate non-profit, Reimage ReEntry offers support to people returning to Allegheny county after serving their sentences. Richard and his team walk alongside these men and women as they face systemic employment, education, and other barriers that are even more difficult to deal with as parolees.

“We coach and mentor,” Richard explains. “We offer mental health services, workforce development and training, family reunification support, and housing assistance. Thanks to numerous community partnerships that provide funding, we’re able to give these men and women opportunities. Opportunity is the key to staying out of prison. When you have the freedom to choose from healthy options, you feel more empowered and in control.”

CommUnity Hospital Violence Intervention Project (formerly known as G.R.I.P.S.)

CommUnity HVIP recruits firearm assault survivors from hospital sites and offers them case management and social support for six months. The goal is to prevent re-injury and criminal involvement.

During a participant’s sponsorship, Richard and his team help the individual create and achieve goals, such as training for and finding employment and completing a GED.

Homicide Review

Since 2012, the Homicide Review program has been doing just that: Keeping track of, gathering data about, and analyzing Pittsburgh’s homicides to identify trends and patterns, especially neighborhood dynamics associated with violence.

The goal is to use this information to develop intervention strategies for reducing our city’s homicide rate, which increased 54% from 2019 to 2020. The data includes what a typical homicide looks like in Allegheny county.

Richard, who’s dedicated his life to preventing violence, believes he’s setting an example for younger crusaders. As a young man from Philly, Richard served more than 23 years in various forms of incarceration before reclaiming his self-worth with help from members of MOVE whom he met in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg Prison.

“They made me who I am, these older inmates who mentored me,” he explains. “Now I’m older and it’s my responsibility to help put these young people on a healthier path.”

Richard adds, “Our community must come together to prevent violence through collaboration. Violence is not a Black thing or a white thing. It’s not a rich thing or a poor thing. It’s become an American thing. When you can be shot simply for turning around in somebody’s driveway or knocking on the wrong door in somebody’s neighborhood, it’s time for change.”


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