The Massachusetts Probation Service Celebrates National Probation, Parole, & Community Supervision Week 2013 by Changing Lives and Building Futures
Massachusetts Probation Officers will join their colleagues across the nation and Canada in celebrating National Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week, July 21st-27th. This year’s theme is “Changing Lives, Building Futures.”
Each day, Probation Officers across the Commonwealth are helping offenders identify barriers to successful and lawful living such as substance abuse and criminal, anti-social behaviors. Eighty-five percent of offenders statewide suffer with substance abuse. Approximately 72.7 percent require mental health or substance abuse counseling, according to statistics provided by Probation’s Research Department. Probation Officers hold offenders accountable and provide them with the tools to address their challenges as well as prepare for the future.
Under the leadership of recently-appointed Probation Commissioner Edward Dolan, the Massachusetts Probation Service--the oldest Probation Service in the nation--is celebrating the revitalization of the agency which includes the hiring of Probation employees across the Commonwealth. More than 100 Probation employees have been appointed to various positions in courts throughout the Commonwealth. There has also been the implementation of new programs and initiatives.
“This year’s theme, “Changing Lives, Building Futures,” reflects the dedicated efforts of Probation Officers who work with offenders to change their behaviors, develop new approaches, and find resources that help them as they rebuild their futures,” said Commissioner Dolan. “Although our mission to supervise offenders and enhance public safety is as strong as ever, Probation is also experiencing new and exciting changes that will positively impact public safety in communities throughout the state.”
New initiatives such as best practices and technological innovations are beginning to take shape and have an important impact on offenders, their families, and the communities where they reside. Approximately 760 Probation employees have been trained in ORAS, an acronym for Ohio Risk Assessment, a tool based on the Ohio Risk Assessment System. This system is used by Probation Officers to determine the rehabilitative needs of offenders as well as assess their risk to the community.
Long-running programs and collaborative efforts such as NiteLite and crime correlation continue to enhance public safety. NiteLite pairs local police and Probation Officers during offender home and community visits. Crime correlation confirms whether an individual monitored by a GPS bracelet is involved in criminal activity either as a perpetrator or a witness. This information has been provided upon request to local, state and federal criminal justice agencies for investigative purposes. There are a total of 2,883 offenders monitored by Electronic Bracelet statewide.
This year’s Probation Supervision Week will also recognize the work of Superior Court Probation Departments where Probation Officers supervise the most serious felony and high profile cases. There are 12 Superior Court Probation Departments across the state. Superior Court Probation Officers manage Re-entry programs which assist offenders returning to their communities upon release from prison and direct those offenders to necessary programs and services such as educational and job skills training, housing information, and counseling services.
In Massachusetts, there are 80,880 individuals under Probation supervision. They are supervised by 762 line Probation Officers in more than 100 courts across the state.
There are five court divisions served by the Massachusetts Probation Service- Superior, District, Boston Municipal, Juvenile, and Probate and Family. Superior Court Probation Officers supervise the most serious felony cases. District and Boston Municipal Court (BMC) Probation Officers supervise misdemeanor and less serious felony criminal cases. Juvenile Probation Officers oversee children, adolescents, and young adults involved in delinquent, youthful, and status-offending behavior, as well as, monitor the welfare of children who are before Juvenile Court as subjects of parental abuse and neglect. Probate and Family Court Probation Officers assist the court in the management and disposition of a range of family-centered civil matters including domestic issues, divorce, paternity, guardianship and adoption.
The Probation Service also includes the state’s 18 Community Corrections Centers where offenders receive intensive supervision and can earn their GED, participate in job training, and receive drug and alcohol counseling. This alternative to jail requires the offender to report regularly to the center, participate in drug testing, and perform community service.
In addition to resources provided by the courts, Probation Officers have created programs and initiatives to promote responsibility and law-abiding behavior among individuals appearing before the court. Parenting Programs, such as the Fatherhood and Mothers Programs, which teach good parenting skills; and Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL), which relates life experience to literature and poetry are among these initiatives. There are also the Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, Gun Courts, a Veterans Court, a Homeless Court, and OUI (Operating Under the Influence of Liquor) Courts which are examples of sessions designed, implemented, and or coordinated by Probation Officers in collaboration with the judiciary and community agencies.
Probationers, ordered to do community service in lieu of court costs, performed a total of 414,838 hours over the past year. Offenders across the state work at food pantries where they have helped distribute several tons of food to struggling families. Offenders have assisted in the construction, remodeling and painting of non-profit organizations such as churches and synagogues, as well as senior citizen centers. Those participating in community service efforts can frequently be seen along the highways and beaches of Massachusetts conducting litter and beautification projects as a means of payback to their communities.
“Since its early beginnings as the first Probation Service in the nation, Massachusetts has set a record of firsts. Probation Officers continue the legacy of Boston shoemaker John Augustus, who in 1841 introduced the Probation concept. Officers help offenders overcome their challenges and they have worked to improve public safety, and enhance the quality of life in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Commissioner Dolan.