Press Release—Dartmouth, MA
Let Hamlet Transform You
In this video, J.C. Wallace portrays the complex role of Hamlet. “To be, or not to be” is one of the best-known lines in English literature. Wallace gives a superb performance of Hamlet’s greatest soliloquy.
This video was produced by JoAnne Breault, Director of Communication for Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL). Breault oversees CLTL’s Literature Transforms You campaign which promotes reading literature as a way to enhance lives. CLTL is based at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and was founded by Dr. Robert Waxler and Judge Robert Kane as an alternative sentencing program.
This is the second video in the Literature Transforms You series. Watch the first video—The Tell-Tale Heart.
Please comment on this post to share how literature has transformed you (or someone you know).
Press Release—Dartmouth, MA
Watch this dramatic rendering of one scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart.
Exposing the public to classic literature
The Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) program has launched a literature project called Literature Transforms You. The project highlights notable works of literature by creating videos marketed on YouTube. The objective is to expose the public to classic pieces of literature and to renew the public’s interest in reading.
“There are so many great works of Literature that people have not been exposed to. Creating a video dramatizes the experience of reading a novel. CLTL is much more than an alternative sentencing program that helps rehabilitate criminal offenders,” explains the project’s Director of Communication, JoAnne Breault. “It inspires people to read and learn—ultimately promoting literacy.”
Using social media to promote literature
Ms. Breault further states that utilizing YouTube is part of a campaign to harness social media for this literature project.
First Poe, then Shakespeare
The first video features David Mello, Supervisor of Children’s Services at the Fall River (MA) Public Library. Mr. Mello dramatically acts out a scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, A Tell-Tale Heart.
Ms. Breault’s next mission is to highlight a work of William Shakespeare. “The first time you are assigned to read Shakespeare, there is a sense of apprehension. Once you start reading his words, they are so fluid and melodious; you forget that you are reading old English,” says Ms. Breault.
Children’s books to rival television and video games
Another video will feature a children’s story. “Children are bombarded with violent video games and senseless television. Reading books engages a child’s mind and inspires imagination,” says Ms. Breault.
Seeking volunteer readers and actors
Ms. Breault is seeking volunteers to read captions from their favorite novels and seeking potential actors and actresses to dramatize the scenes. She will perform all of the videography and editing to get the project posted on YouTube.
For more information, e-mail JoAnne Breault at email@example.com.
David Mello, the spell-binding Tell-Tale Heart narrator in the first Literature Transforms You video, is featured in a Fall River Herald News article by Marc Munroe Dion. The article discusses Mello’s gallery-displayed mask collection which includes a haunting mask of author Edgar Allan Poe. Read the full article.
Happy New Year!
We’d like to know your opinion. Please take this quick poll by clicking the link below. Thank you!
–Nancy, blog editor
Judge Bettina Borders, of Bristol County Juvenile Court, was named 2012 SouthCoast Woman of the Year. She made “contributions to the community as a justice and activist,” according to the New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times. Her work includes making use of alternative sentencing programs such as Changing Lives Through Literature.
Read reporter Natalie Sherman’s full article about this amazing Woman of the Year.
Is someone in your community changing lives for the better? Tell us about that person.
To submit brief comments, use the comments link at the top of this post. To submit longer comments, or to include images, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing about the remarkable, and perhaps under-recognized, people in your communities.
–Nancy E. Oliveira, Editor
As we approach the end of 2012, let’s take a moment to reflect on this year’s successes—big and small—of Changing Lives Through Literature and other alternative sentencing programs.
We are the official blog of Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL)—an alternative sentencing program “based on the power of literature to transform lives through reading and group discussion,” as well-stated on the official CLTL website.
The main purpose of the Changing Lives, Changing Minds blog is to support CLTL. This blog provides a place to discuss:
- CLTL and other alternative sentencing programs that reduce criminal recidivism or change lives for the better—share news, concerns, successes, difficulties, and ideas
- Literature—recommend stories that inspire; talk about literary events that enlighten
- Criminal justice reform and other relevant criminal justice topics of today—discuss what works and what changes still need to take place
A milestone reached: 200 posts
We reached a milestone this year—we published our 200th post. Please continue to join us as we embark on our next 200. Also, while CLTL has been around since 1991, this blog turned four years old last month. Let’s look forward to the next four years and beyond.
Thank you for contributing your thoughts, experiences, and insights to this blog. Also, thank you for reading it! We hope you find its content meaningful and valuable.
A call to action: share your 2012 success stories
We invite you to share your CLTL (or similar program) successes of 2012. We encourage you to use this blog to share your answers to any of these questions:
- How did your CLTL group or similar program succeed in 2012?
- What breakthroughs were experienced?
- What piece of literature did you or someone in your program find most inspiring?
For shorter comments, please use the leave a comment link at the top of this post and enter your reply. For longer comments, or to include images, submit up to 700 words to email@example.com for publication on this blog.
We also welcome your thoughts on what you’d like to read on this blog for the upcoming year.
Again, thank you for helping to make this blog, CLTL, and similar programs a success.
Nancy E. Oliveira
Editor of Changing Lives, Changing Minds—a Changing Lives Through Literature blog
Photo taken by JoAnne Breault.
By Sara Dawkins
While reading, you use your imagination to visualize a story’s characters as if they’re starring in a movie within your mind. Although the author’s words greatly impact the flow of your mind-movie, your imagination fills in the blanks. Reading about characters who have similar circumstances to yours can help shed light on your own situation. This is one of the base beliefs behind the alternative sentencing program called Changing Lives Through Literature. How can literature encourage positive change in a criminal’s way of thinking?
1. Reflection: When offenders openly analyze their own lives through literary characters, they get a chance for inner reflection that they may never have explored before. They put themselves in the spotlight for self-examination.
2. Positive Role Models: After ordering CLTL classes as part of sentencing, judges may attend the classes involving the offenders-turned-students. By contributing to the literary discussions, the judges start becoming positive role models in the students’ lives—possibly changing how the students view the world. Parole officers can become role models just as much by participating in the students’ progress in the classes. This can greatly increase the chances of rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
3. Self-Worth: In order for the program to work, students must have a capacity to accept responsibility for their actions. Students must show and demonstrate that they can be proactive in their own rehabilitation. For some, it is difficult to rely only on themselves to stay motivated enough for better lives. Family histories can be pivotal to how students adapt to this method of rehabilitation.
4. Perspective: This alternative method of sentencing is more than just a book club. The literary works chosen reflect students’ lives—either through the characters or the situations. It’s a way for students to examine their actions from the perceptions of others. As their imaginations explore the settings, the literature often drives a point home better than more jail time would.
5. Safety: The philosophy behind CLTL is such that it allows students to feel safe when discussing literature. Students open themselves up and discuss the actions of literary characters, and how the characters relate to themselves.
Alternative sentencing methods for criminal offenders has had great success. Support is growing for methods such as these. Words can be powerful to those who are open to their meanings. We should embrace the success of CLTL and support rehabilitation over punishment to those who need it and who are willing to benefit from it.
Sara Dawkins is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/.
Boston Book Festival panel discussion covers remorse, redemption, and resiliency
By JoAnne Breault
“When you are in prison, you don’t get to make a lot of choices and you have a lot of time to think about why you are there. You lose your sense of time,” explained former inmate William Gaul to a crowd at the Boston Public Library.
Many prisoners have little or no access to education, mental health treatment, or rehabilitation opportunities. “The Prison Book Program was a godsend to me,” said Gaul. “I began reading in prison and books had a profound meaning.”
Gaul was one of four panelists at Unbound: Books Behind Bars, a panel discussion at this year’s Boston Book Festival, New England’s largest annual literary event. Gaul served his eight-year sentence and graduated from college with a BA in Biblical Theology. He then worked as a coordinator for a criminal justice program and advocated for criminal offenders at American Friends Service Committee. He has been both a client and a volunteer with the Prison Book Program, a Quincy, MA non-profit organization. “While in prison, I traveled the world through reading. I want to give that back,” said Gaul.
Stories of remorse, redemption, and resiliency resonated throughout the panel discussion as representatives of literacy organizations and former criminal offenders interacted with each other. Independent studies show that criminal offenders who participate in literacy programs are less likely to re-offend.
In addition to former inmate Gaul, the panelists included Judge Robert Kane, Edson Monteiro, and Michael Krupa.
Dr. Robert P. Waxler, author and Professor of English at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, moderated the panel. “Books create an opportunity,” said Waxler. “They can liberate beyond the steel of a rigid prison.”
Dr. Waxler and Judge Kane co-founded Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL), an alternative sentencing program. CLTL gives criminal offenders opportunities to participate in reading discussion groups—a probation requirement for some.
Panelist Edson Monteiro, an urbane young man, told his compelling story of being diagnosed with Leukemia as a college varsity soccer player. Plagued with surmounting medical bills, Monteiro quit school. “I made some bad decisions,” admitted Monteiro.
Monteiro was convicted of a crime. While serving his time, he began reading books about managing finances, business, buying stocks, and religion. “I sought books that would help me excel in life and expand my knowledge,” he said.
Today Monteiro represents a prison success story. He graduated from college in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree and has started his own IT company. Books remain an important part of his life.
Panelist Michael Krupa serves as the board chair of Concord (MA) Prison Outreach and leads weekly book discussion groups at MCI Concord and the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, MA. “As volunteers we come into the prison system and try and humanize their experience,” said Krupa.
During the panel’s question and answer period, Katelyn, a young blonde woman in a tight ponytail, bravely made her way to the podium. She labeled herself as a byproduct of Boston’s inner city. She confided that she had gotten into trouble and ended up in a juvenile detention center. “It was not until after I was incarcerated that I developed an interest in reading books.” Today she attends community college and aspires to become a journalist.
2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States today. According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, it costs taxpayers $43,000 per year to incarcerate a prisoner. Programs like the Prison Book Program and Changing Lives Through Literature only cost approximately $500.00 per participant. The end result is a reduction in recidivism.
JoAnne Breault is seeking her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She hopes to pursue a career in public relations writing.
Photos by JoAnne Breault.
This is Katie Newport’s first post as web editor for Changing Lives, Changing Minds.
In the year 2000, I entered my freshman year at Framingham State College; I was eager to learn, hopeful for the future, and had indiscriminately chosen a major -Communication Arts. It wasn’t long before I decided to change my path; I had fallen in love – with Art History. For the next four years, I devoured books on feminist art history, marveled over the seemingly insignificant smudges and dollops of oil paint that make up a Van Gogh, and got lost in the presence of anything from the Dutch realists.
During this time, in lieu of electives, I took anything and everything that related to English literature or writing. Children’s Literature, World Literature, Myth and Folklore, Women Writers, The Classics, etc. Each of these satisfied my insatiable need for the written word, and – even more compelling – they were fun. Four years later, I had taken so many of these elective classes that, upon graduating, I was awarded a degree in Art History and English; my reading and writing habits had become functional, and permanent, fixtures.
Over time, it became increasingly obvious that writing was, in fact, my calling. And though I still lose my breath at the sight of a Dutch memento mori, I know that Art History is the hobby, not Literature.
As my graduate career in the Professional Writing program draws to a close this semester, and as I accept this position as Web Editor for Changing Lives, Changing Minds, I cannot help but reflect on the role that literature has played in my life up until this point. I cannot help but wonder where I would be without my shelves, stocked with dog-eared favorites and stiffly bound not-yet-read books? Who would I have become if not for the likes of Judy Blume at age thirteen, Jane Austen at sixteen, F. Scott Fitzgerald at seventeen, and Steinbeck at nineteen? Their voices and their words changed mine.
Similarly so, the Changing Lives Through Literature program transforms reading from a passive, solitary practice to an active, participatory endeavor – one that engages and expands upon an individual’s experience or existence, creating opportunities for growth and change. The reflection of one’s self in the pages of classic literature is a striking thing; it is a moment that is both humbling and grandiose, and ultimately hard to forget. It is a moment that can strike you much like looking closely, and intensely, at a painting.
In my undergraduate Art History classes, we’d begin to discuss a piece by looking at it in full view, displayed up on the projector screen. Then, the slide would change, and we would visually dissect detailed photographs. As a class, we would discuss each nuance, color choice, brush selection, and medium variation.
After a while, it became harder to see the piece as a whole, and instead we saw it as a marriage of thousands of distinct, deliberate choices, all of which were made by one person, in one moment, for one end. This exercise in intimacy compels a relationship between the piece and the audience, much like close reading and literary analysis.
I am very excited about the upcoming months here at Changing Lives, Changing Minds, and look forward to being a contributor and facilitator of discussion, and more so, an audience to our essayists.
Allan McDougall is a graduate student from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Allan is a staunch believer in language as social action, with a focus on reading and writing. Allan is currently writing his MA thesis on Changing Lives Through Literature, and writes about professional and academic issues on his blog: allanmcdougall.wordpress.com.
This essay is the final in a series of three posts written by Allan McDougall based on interviews he conducted with CLTL program participants.
The West Roxbury courthouse women’s CLTL program is specialized for women suffering from mental illness, drug addiction or both. Veronica, a single mother, was more reserved than my previous interview subjects, Ken and Sheila. Yet Veronica’s shyness is nothing compared to her crippling inability to communicate before taking CLTL. Veronica told me, “I would never talk to nobody before; I never got along with nobody.” She continued:
In front of the class everyone would get a chance to talk about their problems. I have never opened up to people like I did with Adita, the people in my class, and Leigh, the teacher. I got to learn a lot and become closer with people. Now I’m very open.
The opportunity to share her thoughts and feelings in a reading/writing group environment changed Veronica’s ability to communicate with others. But she also told me about some other positive benefits of CLTL, specifically benefits for her daughter:
I never used to read before, now I read, I have a library card for the first time ever. I write more, read more, talk more. Reading keeps you out of trouble. I even read more to my daughter now. She loves animal books!
Volunteers like Adita Velasquez, Veronica’s probation officer, and Leigh, the Boston English professor who facilitates Veronica’s course, used a structured program of reading and writing to effect the positive changes for students in the West Roxbury program. But, as Veronica puts it, “we’re finished but we’re still not finished.” Each year, Leigh collects and publishes the best writings from the CLTL group. As in the men’s Dorchester programs, this is the first time Veronica has ever seen her writing in print.
Brooke Joseph is a graduate student in education at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She has a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Social Sciences with a concentration in Sociology and Elementary Education.
In a recent interview with Professor Robert P. Waxler, co-founder of the Changing Lives through Literature (CLTL) program, I focused on finding out how CLTL changes lives. Three themes emerged from this interview: Putting Yourself in the Story, Becoming Friends with Characters, and Breaking Down Stereotypes.
Putting Yourself in the Story
Reading and writing can change people’s lives by helping individuals to focus and increase their awareness through self-reflection. Waxler explained that when you are reading a good piece of literature, you often put yourself in the story and empathize with characters. Even though during the CLTL sessions everyone is reading the same story, each individual will read the story in a different manner. Therefore, when the story is discussed, the characters are seen from opposing angles and people “begin to understand that stories, like our lives, are richly textured possibilities.”
Although stories do not offer definitive solutions to people, they do “raise profound questions about our lives. And as long as we continue to ask important questions, we are doing something worthwhile with our lives.” Waxler says reading the right stories helps us to “pursue our identity as if we are on a journey through life;” by “expanding our perceptions, offering new experiences and deepening our thinking, stories move us and they make us self-reflective. They offer us questions, and then the stories give us the opportunity to pursue answers to those questions.”
Becoming Friends with Characters
Dr. Waxler also gave an example of how a particular character can change people’s lives. When people are reading they allow the characters to become a part of their lives; characters in the stories “become our friends. Their voices are embedded in our hearts.” For example, take Santiago from Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea novel. Even though Santiago does not catch a fish for weeks, he continues to wake up every morning to “fight the good fight; his endurance is admirable.”