Philosophy and practices of an alternative sentencing program

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Disturbed by the lack of real success of prisons in reforming offenders, Robert Waxler, an English professor, and Judge Robert Kane, a former Massachusetts District Court justice, created Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL)--an educational initiative for criminal offenders based on the idea that studying literature can transform lives. Since its founding in 1991, CLTL has won numerous awards and been featured in national media outlets like The New York Times, Parade Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Today Show. The CLTL program has also been featured in the new book Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World by Nicholas A. Basbanes.

In Finding a Voice, Waxler and Jean Trounstine (who extended CLTL to female prisoners in 1993) discuss the "how and why" of their unique alternative sentencing program. Along with describing the program's beginnings and the team approach that made CLTL a success, the authors also give a wealth of practical advice for other teachers. Their sample lesson plans, text suggestions, and discussion of controversies faced by CLTL show readers a way of approaching literature with alternative learners everywhere.

Jean Trounstine is an author, activist, and Professor of Humanities, Middlesex Community College (MA). Robert Waxler is Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.