Being a Probation Officer is not an easy job. In fact, many say it can be downright discouraging at times. Every once in a while, however, you have an opportunity to inspire change in someone’s life, which can leave you feeling both rewarded and encouraged.
Consider the story of parolee Anthony Quinones, whose life changed for the better when his probation officer encouraged him to get involved in a literature program that was offered by the Chicopee District Court and ran for just over two months. Quinones’s probation officer thought it would be a great opportunity for him, despite his initial lack of enthusiasm about the program and the possibility of homework. With a fair amount of encouragement from his probation officer, Quinones reluctantly entered into the program.
For Quinones, probation was the lowest point in his life. Prior to his arrest, Quinones was enlisted with the U.S. Army for 17 years, where he served two tours in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. On his final tour, he sustained injuries that put him in a vegetative state for eight weeks, which ultimately led to his discharge. When he resumed consciousness, his life began spiralling downward. His mother died. His father passed away. And then he got divorced, all in the period of one year. He developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which ultimately led to his run-in’s with police.
Despite his attitude at the start of the program, his life was transformed at the completion of it. Quinones believes that reading helped him relate to the characters in the books and he has since learned that anyone can turn their life around, if they truly want to. He has become even more inspired to continue reading, since his doctor has advised him that continuous reading will help him heal from the injuries to his brain.
To show their support, the probation officers of each of the parolees participating in the program also enrolled in the program. Each person who enrolled in the program completed it successfully and passed all the final exams. One probation officer even admitted that the parolees understood the books better than him.
Changing Lives through Literature was established twenty years ago. Research has shown that over half of the participants that complete the program never have problems with the law again. This program’s mission is built on the philosophy that literature can transform the lives of people in a radical manner.