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Team Concept

The CLTL program works through a team approach. From the beginning, we believed that a judge, a probation officer and a professor offered the ideal team model. We still believe that, although there are all sorts of variations on this model now. We encourage diversity and flexibility. At its core, the team approach reflects a strong partnership between two important public institutions: the Criminal Justice System (especially the Trial Court) and the Higher Education System (especially universities and community colleges). It also suggests the connections between law and literature, justice and language. In addition, a good team always works on a personal level, so it is important to consider the team make-up and individual commitment when putting a team together. For a team to work effectively, there needs to be good communication among all three members and an understanding that each member contributes in unique ways to the overall program.

The democratic vision of the CLTL program reinforces the idea that each member enriches the others' experience. That sense of vision is an important part of CLTL's success. All members of the team should appreciate the possibility of literature to make a difference in peoples' lives, and they should be committed to a belief in justice. If the CLTL program proves rewarding to the team members, as it often does, that reward usually comes from an engagement with a process that makes people feel they are doing something valuable and worthwhile: they are involved in a program that transcends any simple sense that this is simply another job to be done. When starting a program, it is important to consider some of the key roles each member will play, and how members' perspectives on justice and the humanities will reflect on their contribution to the program. Since the team is the core of each of the individual programs, it determines the success or failure of the program. When choosing members of the team, it is important to consider how each member contributes to the whole, the role each plays, and what is expected. At the same time, it is worth considering how much time and commitment each member can offer to fulfill his or her obligation to the CLTL program.

The Judge's Role

The judge gives the CLTL process authorization and legitimacy within the judicial system. In a sense, he or she gives permission for the program to go forward. The judge must be willing to publicly sign-on and support the CLTL effort, as the Honorable Joseph Reardon, First Justice of Barnstable District Court in Massachusetts, mentions in his essay, "The Imperative Role of the Judge." This takes courage, in part because other judges may not support the idea.

The judge also serves initially as an important symbol of authority, an authority that should be perceived as humane and just as the CLTL sessions move forward. In this sense, the Judge should be someone who clearly projects authority, but also has a keen sense of human justice and flexibility. Just as good literature does, the judge should be a continuous reminder of the importance of creating a meaningful community. Judge Reardon offers his perspective in "The Role of the Community Judge."

The judge is the team member who sentences the offenders appearing before the bench, and here, too, the public role, as well as private conscience, needs to be considered.

The judge is also encouraged to attend as many literature sessions on the campus as possible after sentencing has taken place, although, given the time restraints on his schedule, he or she may be unable to attend. The judge usually officiates at a public graduation ceremony in the courtroom at the end of the literature sessions. In this context, the judge should have an appreciation of literature, and, ideally, a desire to read and discuss it.

In general, the judge's commitment to the CLTL program and her or his willingness to talk about the program to other judges and court officials are important measures of future success for the CLTL start-up. The judge is central to the growth of the program and is often a strong CLTL advocate.

The Probation Officer's Role

The probation officer (PO), another crucial member of the team, works with the judge in the courts and with the professor on the campus. In many ways, the PO is the lynchpin of the team, helping to connect the justice system with the academic community. CLTL charter PO, Wayne St. Pierre, gives his views on his role in "The Role of the Probation Officer."

The PO helps screen the offenders, checks their reading skills, talks with prosecutors and defense attorneys about the CLTL candidates, makes recommendations to the bench, draws up appropriate contracts and rules for eligible offenders, and supervises the participants in the program, offering encouragement and praise when appropriate and recommending sanctions when necessary.

Initially, the PO is the team member to whom the offender looks for advice and trust. She or he joins in the literature discussions each session and plays an active role at the graduation ceremony in the courtroom.

The PO is the person most likely to listen to, and to know, the story of the offender. In this sense too, the PO is central to the team effort. The professor looks to the PO for advice and feedback on the reading and discussions; the judge looks to the PO for recommendations and guidance.

The Professor's Role

The professor is the member of the team rooted in literature and connected to the campus community and is often the team member who has had the least contact with criminal offenders. The professor is often someone who understands and appreciates the close ties between literature and life and can bring deep insights to the discussion table.

In a sense, the professor represents part of the alternative story being offered to the offender through the reading and discussions on the college campus. The responsibility for choosing the books, facilitating the literary discussions, determining an approach, and arranging most matters on the campus usually falls to the professor.

A passion for literature and discussion and a belief in language often helps to inspire the CLTL process around the table, so it is important to find facilitators who exhibit that commitment and who seem to understand how the shadow of schooling needs to be overcome.

Overall, when starting a program, it is the team approach that needs to be considered right away and that serves as the core of the CLTL effort.

Each team has common features, yet each team is unique.

Each individual CLTL program grows and shapes its specific identity from the particular interests and perspectives of these three team members and from the make-up of the clientele they serve.

Video (may take a few moments):

Judge Joseph Reardon discusses the court team (video).

Judge Thomas May remarks on how each participant views the literature from his or her own perspective (video).

Probation Officer Hank Burke talks about his motivations for participating as a CLTL team member (video).

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