Joyce opposed to probation/ parole merger

BOSTON – Senator Brian A. Joyce announced today that he is opposed to merging the Probation Department with the Parole Board. Senator Joyce was one of three senators appointed by Senate President Therese Murray to a Working Group of legislative and executive branch officials to study ways to reform the Probation Department and to make recommendations for implementing reforms in the wake of recent scandals highlighted in the Ware Report.
The Patrick administration has proposed that the state Probation Department, currently an agency run by the judicial branch, merge with the state Parole Board into a new agency, overseen by the executive branch and entirely under the Governor’s jurisdiction. This is the second time that the Administration has posed this idea, arguing that it would encourage a more linear and accessible system for convicted criminals who are reentering society.
“Governor Patrick deserves credit for his significant efforts toward more cost effective public safety measures. I agree with much of what the administration has proposed for public safety and for the Judiciary, but I oppose the plan to merge the Probation Department with the Parole Board,” said Senator Joyce. “It is strongly opposed by Chief Justice Ireland and virtually all other persons from our co-equal judicial branch with whom I spoke.” The Chief Justice and other judges have argued that in order for the probation department to function optimally, it should remain in the judicial branch. Trial judges and probation officers have a unique relationship in Massachusetts; they work together to create individualized probation sentences, which has been critical to the success of probation in the past.
“We should act promptly upon the reform recommendations of the Probation Working Group,” said Senator Joyce.
The 22 page working group report, released in January, called for changes aimed at empowering department managers, ensuring more judicial oversight and instituting clear promotional systems and merit-based hirings. The report also states that there is a need for both administrative and legislative changes. Specifically, the group recommended passage of legislation to clarify the authority of the chief administrator of the trial courts, to allow him or her adequate oversight of the Probation Department without undue political influence.