Poetry as Sentencing Alternative: Diversion in Vermont

Two roads diverged in a Vermont wood.

In December, one road led a group of young people to an underage drinking party at the Homer Noble Farm, where Robert Frost spent more than twenty summers. It was cold, so they burned some antiques for warmth and other furnishings were broken or stained. The damage and cleanup costs were estimated at $10,600. As part of their punishment, about 25 members of the group chose to enter a diversion program in order to expunge their records.

In June, the program led the youths to take the road less traveled, requiring them to attend a poetry class taught by Robert Frost biographer Professor Jay Parini of Middlebury College. In addition, some of the vandals will pay for part of the damage and perform community service.

The case provides not only an example of innovation in juvenile sentencing, but an irresistable opportunity for word play. News headlines included:

For Their Crime, They Face Rhyme;
Vandals Go from Bad to Verse;
Vandalize a Home, Read a Poem; as well as the inevitable
Poetic Justice.

Listen to Robert Siegel’s interview with Jay Parini on NPR’s All Things Considered and to subsequent listeners’ comments.

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