Changing Lives through Literature

The result of close collaboration between academia and the criminal justice system, Changing Lives through Literature strives to reduce recidivism through reading. Taught by English professors, each CLTL program encourages participants, who include judges, probationers, and probation officers, to examine their life experiences and challenges by exploring diverse works of literature and poetry. Participants meet for 12-14 weeks in a college classroom setting to read and discuss works by authors such as Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway. The goal is to get probationers to use literature as a way to relate to their own life experiences: to reflect on their past decisions, gain valuable insights into what influences or triggers their behavior, and enable them to make better life choices. CLTL graduates report feeling a sense of accomplishment, with a more positive view of their fellow probationers, judges, and probation officers. A recent study conducted at the University of Massachusetts (UMass)-Boston found that more than half (53 percent) of CLTL participants had not been arrested in the 18 months after completing the program, compared to 36 percent of non-CLTL participants.


CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.

Empowering Incarcerated Parents Program

This program is a five-week Berkshire County Probate & Family Court Probation program. This collaborative effort with the office of Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler helps newly-released individuals reestablish relationships with their families and assists these litigants with finding and maintaining employment.

Heroin Education Awareness Task Force Program (HEAT)

The Heroin Education Awareness Taskforce (HEAT) focuses on education, outreach, and treatment. Created in 2005 by two Woburn Probation Officers to address the growing opiate crisis among young adults, HEAT currently serves seven communities: Burlington, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Wilmington, Winchester, and Woburn. Woburn Probation Officers work with assigned police officers from these seven towns to educate the communities they serve. HEAT was one of the first opiate taskforces in the nation to challenge the stigma and misconceptions surrounding drug addiction by providing educational outreach, intervention, and access to treatment. To date, HEAT has referred over 2,000 people to treatment, and educated more than 5,000 children and families.

HOPE/MORR (Massachusetts Offender Recidivism Reduction) Project

Essex County probationers participating in a national research project will receive swift, certain, and measured sanctions for any and all probation violations in an effort to study and reduce recidivism.  All Project HOPE/MORR probationers attend a warning hearing and participate in random drug testing conducted at the courthouse. Sanctions apply to any and all alleged violations of probation, such as missed appointments, failed drug tests, or noncompliance with any condition of probation. All violations result in a swiftly scheduled hearing before a judge, usually the same day as the alleged violation. If the violation is supported, probationers are held in the county correctional facility for a short period of time – the measured response aspect of the model. Additional information is available from Project HOPE/MORR Coordinator Quiana Hobson at the Ruane Judicial Center

Operation NiteLite

The NiteLite Program is one of the longest-running Massachusetts probation programs.  This community supervision program pairs probation officers with local police on home and neighborhood visits. Operation NiteLite has spawned a number of unique probation initiatives throughout the state. It has also served as a model for national and international law enforcement.

Parenting Initiatives (Motherhood and Fatherhood Programs)

These programs are 12-week parenting programs in which offenders are taught parenting skills and how to be better role models to their children.  Probationers attend weekly lectures and interactive sessions on issues that including domestic violence, substance abuse, employment, and good nutrition.

Safe Action Recovery and Healing Program (SARAH)

SARAH is a program for young women with prostitution-related offenses.  It provides rehabilitative services such as drug and alcohol counseling.  SARAH is a collaborative effort between Lynn District Court Probation and the Lynn Police Department.

Shakespeare and the Courts

Selected juveniles currently on probation or under the supervision of the courts are ordered to participate and complete an intensive acting/communications program under the supervision of professional actors from the Lenox-based Shakespeare & Co.  Juveniles participate in a 12-week session which entails attending two three-hour sessions each week. These sessions culminate with a live evening performance by the youth before an audience.

Woman/Womanhood Programs

These multi-week programs for female probationers are designed to prevent recidivism and help women offenders achieve healthy lives, free of violence, drugs, and crime. Probationers in these programs attend classes that address domestic violence, women’s health, substance abuse, and job readiness skills.