Not all people who commit crimes need to have the book thrown at them—some are reading to get out of criminal activity, and finding that literature helps them change their lives. This presentation will include how Changing Lives through Literature (CLTL) came to be, how it has grown and developed for people on probation (and also, behind bars). We’ll explore the rationale for a democratic reading/discussion group where professors, judges, probation and correction officers talk to each other about literature. CLTL has become a model in Massachusetts and has been duplicated elsewhere across the country. Finally we’ll cover funding, stats, and best of all, stories from the participants.
Jean Trounstine is an activist, author and professor emerita at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts, whose most recent book is Boy With A Knife: A Story of Murder, Remorse, and a Prisoner’s Fight for Justice (IG Publishing April, 2016). It explores the true story of Karter Kane Reed and the injustice of sentencing juveniles to adult prisons. Trounstine worked at Framingham Women’s Prison for ten years where she directed eight plays with prisoners. Her highly-praised book about that work, Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison has been featured on NPR, The Connection, Here and Now, and in numerous print publications here and abroad. In addition, she has spoken around the world on women in prison, co-founded the women’s branch of Changing Lives Through Literature, an award-winning alternative sentencing program featured in The New York Times and on The Today Show, and co-authored two books about the program.