NEH awards Changing Lives Through Literature

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the innovative alternative sentencing program Changing Lives Through Literature, which was founded at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a $200,000 grant to develop a Web site and CD-Rom that will make the program accessible to criminal court judges, probation officers, students and educators across the world.

May 14, 2003 

NEH awards Changing Lives Through Literature at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth $200,000 to make program universally accessible through the Web 

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the innovative alternative sentencing program Changing Lives Through Literature, which was founded at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a $200,000 grant to develop a Web site and CD-Rom that will make the program accessible to criminal court judges, probation officers, students and educators across the world. 

Professor Robert P. Waxier, project director and co-founder of Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL), said the grant, which is supplemented by $50,000 of in-kind and other funds, will expand the program beyond its current use by court systems in Massachusetts, six other states, and England. Waxler is a professor of English at UMass Dartmouth. 

"Superior Court Judge Robert Kane and I started CLTL ten years ago to put great literature to arguably its most strenuous test—altering the self-defeating life cycle of repeat offenders in our criminal justice system," he said. 

Nationally, the vast majority of the program's more than 3,400 men, women and juvenile graduates have stayed out of prison, according to court officials. CLTL is an alternative sentencing program, not probation in lieu of a sentence. Prison terms are invoked for violators. 

"This is an astonishing turnaround since the first class of six men in 1991 had 148 convictions among them," Waxler said. 

Waxler, Kane and probation of ficer Wayne St. Pierre have remained committed to the program, which holds classes at UMass Dartmouth. Since its early years, they have collaborated with other educators, court officials, and criminal justice professionals nationally who have learned of the program through colleagues and the extensive media attention it has received. But Waxler says the requests for information about how to set up and manage the program, and teach literature to adult and juvenile criminal offenders overwhelm the small staff. This limits the program's growth. 

Through the grant, Waxler said CLTL will establish an interactive website that will foster the creation of new programs, provide current faculty, court officials, and students with learning and discussion tools, promote dissemination of ideas about literature and learning through threaded on-line discussion, and otherwise extend CLTL beyond its current reach.

In addition to Waxler, as project manager, the principals of this NEH grant are Jean Trounstine, a colleague at Massasoit Community College and (co-editor of the CLTL anthology), and Taylor Stoehr and Larry Lablecki, long term CLTL facilitators. They received word that NEH had funded the proposal in early May. 


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