New Castle News

August 26, 2008

Hillsville native details plan for Wayne halfway house

By MaryAlice Meli

A 1957 prison movie starring Jack Palance inspired sympathy for the underdog in a ninth-grade Mohawk High School student.

Hillsville native Dominick Farina has been behind bars ever since, via a 30-year career in corrections that has taken him to Ohio, Kansas, Arizona and back to Lawrence County.

�House of Numbers� is classic film noir with Palance playing two brothers � Bill, a model citizen, trying to help his brother, Arnie, an ex-boxer in prison for murder, to escape from San Quentin.

Could the hot-tempered, impulsive Arnie have been helped?

Farina in 1988 founded the non-profit Community Alternatives Inc., a community-based social service agency, to teach inmates like Arnie the skills they need to manage their anger and impulsive behaviors.

�They need to break the cycle of destructive thinking,� said Farina, who lives in Lowellville, Ohio. He started the agency after working for one that focused more on income and less on treatment.

�I saw a need for help for kids and people that others don�t care about,� he said.

A 1976 graduate of Youngstown State University with a major in corrections and a minor in social work, Farina is asocial worker licensed in Ohio and a certified criminal justice specialist in Pennsylvania.

Currently, he is working on attaining his master�s degree in community counseling, but he has taken a semester off to prepare a transitional living program for a halfway house planned for a site in Wayne Township.


After the state Department of Corrections issued a request for proposals for such a facility last year, Farina submitted his plan in February. Community Alternatives, with offices in Union Township and Warren, Ohio, proposes to operate a halfway house for state inmates who have reached pre-release status. The plan received state approval in May.

Farina and fellow company board member Gabe Cilli, a New Castle attorney, now are seeking approval of a land development plan for the project on 5.2 acres along Wampum Road in Wayne Township.

Cilli and his GCRS Properties LLC development partner, Robert Shrock of Wampum, recently presented plans for the multimillion dollar, two-story facility to county and township planning commissions.

The facility, which will have a 200-bed capacity plus counseling and administrative space, will be called Phoenix House.

The Lawrence County planning commission reviewed the plans and sent them to the township last week.

The township planning commission will review the plans and make a recommendation to the supervisors at a public meeting at 5 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Wayne Township fire hall on Route 65, commission chairman Ed Leymarie said.

The supervisors then will consider action Farina�s plans at a separate meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at the township building.

Although thousands of signatures have been gathered on petitions from township residents and from people in nearby communities who oppose the proposal, Cilli has noted the township legally cannot stop the plan because there is no zoning to regulate where it might go.


Farina, detailing how Phoenix House will operate, said the facility will not be locked down. However, the men will be busy from the 6:30 a.m. wake-up until 8 p.m. All movements will be tracked via computer and a man must have a pass to leave the premises, Farina said.

During the day, counseling sessions will include preparing the clients for general equivalency diplomas for those who have not completed high school.

Farina said the biggest focus will be on programs.

Thinking For Change, a 12-week program, will address anger management and impulse control to discover the triggers for destructive behavior. Revising thinking errors is critical, because �If you�ve been told your whole life you�re a piece of crap, what are you going to think?� Farina said.

Winthrop R. Adkins Life Skills, a 10-week program, will cover career development skills such as identifying an individual�s skills, interviewing for a job, maintaining eye contact, explaining one�s offense without being defensive and accepting responsibility for it, promoting the skills one has in an honest and forthright manner and tending to personal grooming and hygiene, Farina said.

Addiction support also will be available, although the facility will not have a drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit.

�Most offenders do have some form of drug or alcohol addiction,� he said.


Active parenting also will be part of the program � getting children, spouses and parents involved to resolve home issues and emphasize helping men to be responsible fathers, Farina continued.

There also will be a group for children of incarcerated parents, he said, �to help them deal with a daddy in jail.�

Another area of concentration will be to develop and encourage relationships with non-criminal friends. That involves processing and learning to detach from former associates with criminal tendencies, he explained.

Along with counseling, the parolees will be helped to find jobs in their home areas which could include counties contiguous to Lawrence. Public transportation or families will help get them to their job sites. If they work during the day when others are attending counseling sessions, Farina said, evening classes will be conducted for them.

After the men leave the program and are released into society, they will be tracked for two years to see if the evidence-based strategies really work and to determine the rate of recidivism, Farina said.

The clients will complete evaluations as they go through each program, similar to college students fillings out evaluations of professors and courses.

�It will help improve the program, strengthen it and let the offender become more involved in the process,� Farina said, adding, �Everyone deserves the opportunity for rehabilitation.�