As Massachusetts continues to be roiled by debate over which branch of
government should manage probation and parole, the Boston Bar Association today
released a position
paper saying: "The real issues affecting probation and parole are not in
what branch of government those agencies reside, but how they make
cost-effective program choices and deliver community services that are best
designed to protect the public by reducing recidivism."
The position paper was prepared by the BBA Probation Reform Study Group --
appointed by BBA President Donald R. Frederico after the Governor proposed
moving Probation from the Judicial Branch to the Executive Branch in December --
and will provide the basis for the BBA's testimony on this issue before the
Judiciary Committee on March 30, 2011. The study group represents a wide range
of federal and state prosecutorial and public defense experience: R.J.
Cinquegrana (Chair, and Past President of the Boston Bar Association), Robert
Iuliano, Christina Miller, Liza Lunt, Lawrence DiCara, Lee Peterson, Lon Povich,
Michael Ricciuti, and Randy Gioia.
Citing the patronage and hiring abuses in the Probation Department
highlighted by the Ware Report of 2010, and the murder of a Woburn police
officer, John Maguire, resulting in an overhaul of the Parole Board, the BBA in
its position paper urges "that the momentum for change created in recent months
should not be squandered on piecemeal solutions, and that we should not defer to
established structures without good reason as we aim to design a better criminal
According to the position paper, today Massachusetts spends $1.2 billion
annually on state and county corrections, parole, and probation, and all of
these agencies, along with the courts, have one unifying goal, the reduction of
recidivism. To that end, the BBA proposes that reforms be based on a set of
- The legislature should look beyond the problems currently documented in
probation and parole to develop a coherent criminal justice and sentencing
system in which these restructured agencies will play coordinated
roles. We hope that the legislature will consider more
cost-effective use of mandatory sentencing and the adoption of sentencing
guidelines, which would include alternative sentencing practices for low-risk
offenders and intensive supervision, where appropriate, to encourage
successful completion of supervision and re-entry into the
- The Departments of Probation and Parole should be required to implement
evidence-based decision making to support risks/needs assessment of candidates
for conditional release.
- Within their community release functions, the Departments of Probation and
Parole should be required to apply cost/benefit analysis to guide expenditures
for intensive supervision functions like electronic monitoring, community
supervision, and day reporting which are not driven by political
considerations but instead aimed at applying resources where they are most
likely to result in the benefit of reduced recidivism.
- The legislature should insist on better collaboration among criminal
justice agencies that ensures sharing of information; coordination of
training, services and strategies; and elimination of redundant and wasteful
- The hiring and promotion of personnel in these agencies should be based on
education, experience, and professional potential alone. The legislature
should require that tracking of probationer compliance and other human
resource tools such as annual reviews be utilized to retain and promote
probation and parole officers who are successful in achieving reductions in
After devoting considerable time to analyzing proposals that consolidation of
probation and parole in the Executive Branch is necessary, and that
preserving effective relationships between judges and probation officers
requires that probation remain in the Judiciary, the BBA Study Group concludes:
"We find that both propositions have merit but that neither one is controlling.
We are convinced that patronage hiring can be avoided, and best practices
implemented, by either the Executive or the Judiciary."