Board Of Higher Education Presents Excellence Award To "Changing Lives Through Literature"

DARTMOUTH, MA.  The New England Board of Higher Education will present its prestigious 2004 Excellence Award to Dr. Robert Waxler and his colleagues for their innovative alternative sentencing program Changing Lives Through Literature. The award will be presented at a ceremony and dinner scheduled for Friday evening, February 27 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.

DARTMOUTH, MA. – The New England Board of Higher Education will present its prestigious 2004 Excellence Award to Dr. Robert Waxler and his colleagues for their innovative alternative sentencing program Changing Lives Through Literature. The award will be presented at a ceremony and dinner scheduled for Friday evening, February 27 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. 

The Changing Lives Through Literature program is a nationally recognized alternative sentencing program for male and female criminal offenders. It evolved out of a unique research partnership between Dr. Waxler, a professor of English literature at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the court system in southeastern Massachusetts. 

Their research demonstrated how literature could be a powerful and effective way to change the lives of repeat criminal offenders. Sentencing decisions by judges creatively link the readings assigned to the offenders with issues directly related to the judicial proceeding. In the program, sentencing decisions involve the offenders and the judge, but also the professor, the offenders' probation officers and family members. 

“Changing Lives Through Literature is another excellent example of how our faculty’s cutting-edge research is transforming our region, our country and our world,” stated UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack. “In recognizing this research, the New England Board of Higher Education is acknowledging the importance of the Humanities in our quality of life as well as the importance of transferring intellectual capital from universities into the community,” she said. 

Chancellor MacCormack also acknowledged the long-term involvement of Taylor Stoeher, Jean Trounstine, and Larry Jablecki, as well as probation officer Wayne St.Pierre and Judge Robert Kane in helping to shape and implement the CLTL program. Supporters throughout the criminal justice system confirm that the program has long since proven itself, motivating participating men and women to make positive choices in their lives, stimulating their brains and leading some to return to school. 

“Our vision is to expand worldwide, our ongoing conversation about literature and justice,” said Dr. Waxler. “We know how effective this type of alternative sentencing can be. We hope that this recognition by the BHE will help to export the news, meaning and implications of our work throughout the world,” he added. Dr. Waxler is currently developing a website at the program to accomplish his vision. 

Changing Lives Through Literature is funded by a combination of federal, state and private grants and through contributions from individuals. Funding allows local organizers to acquire books for the program and to develop its website. Anyone interested in making a donation to support the Changing Lives Through Literature project or to obtain additional information should contact the UMass Dartmouth Foundation at 508-999-8030 or Dr. Waxler via email at rwaxler@umassd.edu. 


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