Probation Reform Working Group releases recommendations

BOSTON - State Senator Brian A. Joyce joined his eight colleagues from the Senate, House of Representatives, and Executive Branch in releasing the Report of the Probation Reform Working Group last week. The 22-page report of the group appointed to make recommendations to improve the hiring practices and operations of the Probation Department made several recommendations that were incorporated into legislation filed by Governor Patrick. The group's bi-partisan report was made after consulting state and national experts on parole operations and hiring practices.
"Our goals were to conduct a review of the Probation Department's operations to ensure a properly functioning department and to begin to restore the public's trust, and I think our group accomplished that task," said Senator Joyce. "We avoided the temptation of reactionary governing, and instead gathered information from a variety of sources and made a series of prudent recommendations based on our research and findings."

The working group report called for changes aimed at empowering department managers, ensuring more judicial oversight and instituting clear promotional systems and merit-based hirings. The report recommends a further and more thorough review of the Probation Department and the entire criminal justice system to ensure that each department, agency and branch of the system functions efficiently, shares information and complements the mission of the other public safety institutions of the Commonwealth.
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 Justice of Administration and Management to allow him or her adequate oversight of the Probation Department.
Other recommendations include:

  • An entry-level exam should be required for all new probation department hires;
  • Trial court administrators should explore whether to require applicants to disclose the names of all immediate family members who are state employees or elected officials;
  • A rigorous probation commissioner recruitment process should be conducted, since a permanent commissioner will be appointed to the statutory five-year term when acting commissioner Ronald P. Corbett's two-year term ends in January 2013;
  • Temporarily lifting a Trial Court hiring freeze to enable Corbett to fill all vacant deputy commissioner positions;
  • Appointment of an advisory board by the Supreme Judicial Court to oversee probation department reforms;
  • Continuation of data collection on the effectiveness of probation programs and services.

A link to the full Probation Reform Working Group can be found here.