Friday 23 May 2008

Changing Lives Through Literature

The heartening program Changing Lives Through Literature, which started at the University of Massachusetts, was mentioned by Rohan Maitzen in a comment to our 5 May post. (A link to Rohan's blog can be found in our list of sites of Related Interest.) The program began in 1991 in discussions between a professor of English literature, Robert Waxler, and a judge, Robert Kane. The idea was that offenders could be sentenced to probation rather than jail on condition that they attended a seminar on literature. A book has been published on the project: Trounstine, J. R. & Waxler, R. (2005). Finding a voice: The practice of changing lives through literature. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

The website of Changing Lives Through Literature can be reached by clicking here. This site describes the program, and gives links to articles on it in magazines and newspapers. An evaluation has been published in an academic journal: Jarjoura, G. R., & Krumholz, S. T. (1998). Combining bibliotherapy and positive role modeling as an alternative to incarceration. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 28, 127-139. This study is of 72 young men who were repeat offenders. In a Program Group were 32 of these men who took the Changing Lives Through Literature program (in four eight-person classes, which included the literature seminars, talks from role models, and other rehabilitative input). In a Comparison Group were 40 of these men with comparable criminal records who were also on probation but who did not take the program. During the study period (the duration of which I could not find in the article), 6 of the men in the Program Group (18.75%) committed further offences while 18 in the Comparison Group (45%) did so. Reservations about this study include the effect being without statistical analysis, and ambiguity as to which aspects of the program were responsible for it.

I have conducted computer searches of the research literature, but I have not been able to find further refereed papers on evaluations of the program. Similarly, I not been able to find any subsequent research papers that refer to Jarjoura & Krumholz (1998).

If you know any follow-up articles published in refereed journals, perhaps you could let us know by making a comment to this post.


Anonymous said...

There are some other studies on the Website . Also, you could talk with lLan MacDougall who is a gradaute student in Canada working with Miall and a member of the CLTL team. He could be helpful on this.

Keith Oatley said...

Thank you very much for this suggestion. I know there are some other studies on the CLTL website, but I was looking, really, for studies published in refereed journals. I have written to David Miall to get Ilan MacDougall's e-mail.

Anonymous said...

To my knowledge there has only been 1 published study on CLTL. However, apparently researchers at the University of Rhode Island are working on one for the program that URI sponsors. I'm waiting for more info on this one and will have more to report after this year's CLTL annual conference.

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