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|July 22, 2008
Director of Communications
PROBATION OFFICERS OBSERVE
The Massachusetts Probation Service recently
joined their national and international counterparts in
observing probation’s influence on the criminal justice
system and its impact on communities throughout the world
as part of “Probation, Parole and Community Supervision
Week,” an annual celebration set by the American
Probation and Parole Association (APPA). This year’s
theme was “Making Your Mark on the Community.”
As the first probation system in the nation,
the Massachusetts Probation Service has left an indelible
mark on the criminal justice field. This year marks the
Massachusetts Probation Service’s 130th anniversary.
In 1878, the Massachusetts state legislature passed the
first probation statute which put into place an official
state probation service.
Today, there are 258,966 Massachusetts residents
who are under probation supervision or whose case is being
monitored by a Probation Officer in the 105 District, Superior,
Boston Municipal (BMC), Juvenile, and Probate and Family
court departments throughout the Commonwealth, according
to statistics provided by the Research Department at the
Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
In District Court, Probation Officers supervise
criminal cases. Superior Court Probation Officers oversee
the most serious felony cases. Juvenile Court Probation
Officers supervise children and adolescents involved in
delinquent or status offending (truancy, runaway, stubborn
child) behavior which are also known as Children In Need
of Services or (CHINS) cases. Probation Officers in the
Juvenile Courts also monitor the welfare of children who
are before the court as subjects of parental abuse and
neglect. These types of cases are referred to as Care and
Protection (C&P) cases.
Probate & Family Court Probation Officers
handle civil matters such as divorce and paternity as well
as issues involving custody, visitation and child support.
Of the total probation population in the
Commonwealth, eighty-three percent are male and 17 percent
are female, Probation Research statistics show.
“The Massachusetts Probation Service
continues to set precedents. We were one of the first states
to track high-risk offenders using GPS. The NiteLite Program,
a community supervision program which pairs probation officers
with police officers on night time visits to offenders'
homes, is another initiative that had a huge impact. When
NiteLite was first established by Probation Officers in
1992, it was the first program of its kind in the nation
and abroad,” said Probation Commissioner John J.
O’Brien. “We are very proud of the service
and the hard work performed by Probation Officers who do
their part to help keep communities safe.”
Probation Officers supervise offenders through
visits to their homes and by enforcing the orders of the
court. It is also the Probation Officer’s job to
determine an offender’s need for services such as
substance abuse counseling.
The typical profile of an adult probationer
in Massachusetts is a 31-year-old man who is on maximum
supervision, according to information kept by the Research
Department in the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
An offender on maximum supervision receives regular home
visits from their probation officer and may be required
to report to the probation officer at the court. In cases
where substance abuse is a problem, the offender may be
ordered to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing and
may be required to attend substance abuse counseling.
Eighty-three percent of male probationers
were younger than 24 when they committed their first offense.
Of the male probation population, 87 percent have a substance
Of the female probation population, 77.7
percent of women offenders are under maximum supervision.
A total of 71.2 percent of the female probationers had
a prior record within the past five years and 67.6 percent
were younger than 24 at the time of their first offense.
Also according to Probation Research Department statistics,
83.4 percent of women offenders have substance abuse issues.