UMass Dartmouth Professor Robert Waxler today moderated a discussion, "BBF Unbound: Books Behind Bars" at this year's Boston Book Festival, featuring former prisoners whose lives have been changed by the Changing Lives Through Literature program he founded more than 20 years ago.
With more than 2 million Americans in prison -- the largest prison population per capita in the world -- Professor Waxler has proven the effectiveness of education and literacy in reducing recidivism, the return of released convicts to prison.
Because statistics cannot tell the story as well as the individuals whose lives have been changed, Professor Waxler brought together experts and a former prisoner who discussed the impact books and reading have had on their lives, both in and out of prison.
More about Changing Lives Through Literature
Founded in 1991 by Professor Robert Waxler and Judge Robert Kane, Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) is an alternative sentencing program using literature as a way of reaching criminal offenders on probation. Literature seminars give probationers an opportunity to build self-esteem, learn social skills and behaviors, and rehabilitate through attending class discussions about literature as a condition of their probation. CLTL helps probationers integrate into society and provides them with the chance to change their lives.
The program, founded in New Bedford, Mass., now exists in more than twenty district courts in Massachusetts. It also operates in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Maine, Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas. A similar program exists in the United Kingdom.
Over 3,500 offenders have participated in the program. The impact on these individuals and their families has been dramatic. Independent studies indicate a reduction in recidivism rates and decreased violent behavior with CLTL.
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