New Bedford Probation Officer Is Awarded Grant to Continue Probation Music Program Into Retirement
Veteran New Bedford District Court Probation Officer Wayne St. Pierre was recently awarded a New Bedford Cultural Council grant to continue “Inspiring Stories,” a music program for offenders suffering with substance abuse, particularly opiate addiction.
St. Pierre, a 30-year Probation employee who is scheduled to retire in three weeks, travels with his guitar, harmonica, and the lyrics he has written to half-way houses in New Bedford each month. He sings and discusses the lyric meanings and feelings of residents there. Both he and the residents say it helps them deal with feelings of hopelessness and addiction and alienation from family due to their drug use. St. Pierre visits these facilities after work and on his own personal time. The $900 Cultural Arts grant will enable St. Pierre to continue Inspiring Stories at the Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction (PAACA) after he retires. PAACA is a New Bedford-based non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
"Being a Probation Officer since 1986 has given me endless topics to write about. Many of my songs deal with issues of human struggle and people in crisis, these being topics germane to the population served by Probation," St. Pierre said. “He said addicts are often stereotyped and that he offers this program to show that people suffering with addiction come from all walks of life.”
“Inspiring Stories is one of the many Probation programs that helps individuals suffering with addiction by addressing the everyday issues of life. Inspiring Stories is a mix of music and self-reflection that has served as the first steps in the recovery process for many probationers,” said Probation Commissioner Edward J. Dolan.
Melissa, a 30-year-old resident of a New Bedford halfway house for women, said she is inspired by St. Pierre’s songs.
“This (program) is very inspiring. Music is therapy. I am four months clean and I am beyond grateful to be here. I don’t want to just be another statistic. I have a college education and I can do better,” she said. “I know that I was killing my parents slowly. They deserve a better daughter and I am working on it.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Megan, another halfway house resident, said Inspiring Stories inspires her and she wishes there were more programs like it for women everywhere.
“I think this program is great. The songs help us work through our emotions. Music is a coping skill,” she said.
Inspiring Stories is an offshoot of the Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) Program, one of the Massachusetts Probation Service's longest running programs. CLTL is the collaborative effort of St. Pierre, Bristol Superior Court Judge Robert Kane, and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Professor Robert Waxler.
St. Pierre, Judge Kane, and Professor Waxler were looking for a way to engage offenders in reading and discussing literature and relating the characters and their circumstances to their own lives. The founders hoped that this would help probationers make better choices about their lives. It was also their goal to reduce recidivism and demonstrate to probationers that there are better opportunities in life through education and self-reflection. CLTL is typically a 12-week program during which participants read a wide range of books and the titles vary from court to court. There are more than 30 programs across the state. The program has also expanded to Texas, Virginia, and overseas to London.