Chicopee District Court Probation Celebrates First Graduation
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The first graduating class of Chicopee District Court’s Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) Program, an initiative that promotes self-discovery through literature among probationers, celebrated the completion of the 12-week program and a new approach to understanding and changing their criminal behavior. The 2:30 p.m. ceremony took place at the courthouse on Tuesday, January 13th.
The first graduates were six men who ranged in age from their late teens to early 40’s. CLTL graduate Anthony Quinones served as keynote speaker. Chicopee First Justice Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega and Chief Probation Officer Stephen Ashe addressed the graduates, their families and friends.
A recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Boston found that 18 months after probationers completed CLTL, more than half (53 percent) stayed out of trouble. There were no arrests or “further incidents” reported. Students read and discuss books and poetry. Chicopee District’s unique approach included exploring the lyrics of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan.
The CLTL at Chicopee District Court is one of four new programs that debuted this fall. The three other new programs include Berkshire Probate & Family, Hampden Superior, and Worcester Superior courts. The CLTL Program was first introduced 20 years ago by Probation Officer Wayne St. Pierre, Judge Robert Kane, and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Literature Professor Robert Waxler. There are now 27 CLTL Programs throughout the state. There are also programs in Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Texas, Canada, and England.
“Changing Lives Through Literature provides a unique approach for judges, and probation officers to work with offenders. It gives them all a shared opportunity to examine and gain insight into their own life decisions through the power of great literature and poetry. The self-awareness gained through the guided rigor of reading, writing, and discussion, becomes the foundation for positive and lasting change for many of the participants,” said Probation Commissioner Edward J. Dolan.