The program described below is an experiment to reduce violence in one community in Western Massachusetts. The method used is to teach defendants in the criminal justice track and others another way to think about and speak to themselves and others. Almost all the students in the TCV program are mandated by either the Court or their Probation Officer to attend classes. We began the program not knowing what to expect and we received several surprises which have occurred consistently over the 4 years that the program has been in existence. They are:

We continue to be surprised that nearly all students who are mandated to attend eventually choose to attend.

We were surprised at the number of students who will self-refer to the program after attending one workshop series. Self-referred students generally stay with the program for about 2 years.

At the end of the program, we ask students to complete feedback forms. We were surprised that the majority of students report attitude and behavior changes.

Most of all, we were surprised by the stories some students have told us about profound behavior changes which occurred even after several classes. For example, we remember the case of a young man who managed an auto body shop. He reported a profound shift to peacefulness to the point where his community and co-workers asked whether he was using drugs. The class helped this man recognize he had a choice about being angry so often. He observed at work that the boss came onto the shop floor every morning and yelled at the men, then left. They were angry the rest of the day at him and each other. The student went to the boss and told him what he’d seen. He offered to come to the boss each morning to hear his concerns and take them back to the men, without the anger. Within two weeks the constant anger was gone, morale was high and the quality of the work done went up. He said that he no longer fought with his boss and that he experienced general harmony in his workplace. Interestingly he did not report his experience to us in a feedback form. The story came to us only accidentally when he responded to a teacher’s questions during a make-up class.

We think it important to mention an important notion about these surprises, i.e., we did not begin the program with any expectations for attitude or behavior changes. We simply wanted to see what would happen if we were to teach students, many of whom admitted they were prone to violent behavior, a new language of connection.

Elsewhere on this web site you will find a page containing specimen statements by students who went through the program. We are also including a PDF file of all the feedback forms with identities redacted so that you can see for yourself exactly what students said in their own words and in their own handwriting. We, unfortunately, did not have sufficient funding to do any statistical tracking of student behavior after graduation. We must therefore rely for our tentative conclusions of “surprises” on the anecdotes which students told us and upon their feedback forms. We would like to suggest that the feedback forms themselves tell much of the story of this work.


The Transforming Community Violence Program is in the tradition of restorative justice initiatives where the perpetrator of a crime takes responsibility for what they have done and makes reparations to the victim. This is different than retributive justice where the perpetrator receives a punishment equivalent to the harm which they caused. Restorative justice has been show to achieve greater victim satisfaction and less recidivism than retributive justice (see Restorative Justice in Wikipedia).

The program initially grew out of the work of 2 attorneys, Robert Raymond, a criminal defense attorney practicing in Orange, Massachusetts and Jon Kent, a conflict resolution specialist and student of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s model of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Attorney Raymond was looking for an alternative to incarceration for his clients who were accused of lesser violent offenses. Together they created a multi-session workshop model of anger management training focused on awakening students to the needs of others and to taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Sharon Tracy, Executive Director of Quabbin Mediation in Orange, agreed to cooperate by sponsoring the TCV program and the Orange District Court Probation Dept. agreed to participate by referring some of their clients to the program (see Judge Ross’ letter about the program).

How The Program Works

Various organizations, including the Orange District Court Probation Department, attorneys, social service agencies and others, refer students. Many referrals are mandatory and sometimes court ordered. Students will also self-refer. Attorneys use the program as a means of demonstrating to the Court acceptance of responsibility on the part of their clients for their behavior. Students are placed on a waiting list. When a sufficient number of students are wait listed, a class forms and then meets for 6 or more sessions. The classes meet in the offices of Quabbin Mediation which is located in the District Court building in Orange.

The program curriculum is flexible depending on the needs of the students at any given time. At the same time, the curriculum coversthe basic elements of the NVC model through interactive exercises. The model invites students to speak a “new” language to themselves and others which is much less prone to trigger angry and violent behavior.

Students are requested to pay $20 per class and some scholarships are provided to students who cannot afford tuition.

There are 2 teachers in each class.

In the beginning 2 years, funding for the program was provided by Quabbin Mediation. In the last 2 years the program was funded by both the teachers own funds and student tuition. 


The program began in 2005. Twelve 6 to 8 session workshops have been offered through June 2009. An average of 9 students participate in each workshop. In total, 112 students have participated so far. Over 50 completed feedback forms.