Statement on State Auditor's Report on Indigency
The State Auditor’s report summarizes a sample case analysis for the period of July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010 of the verification process of defendants who were deemed indigent and were provided with public legal counsel. In January 2011, Commissioner Ronald P. Corbett, Jr. was appointed to lead the Office of the Commissioner of Probation (OCP) and he immediately placed high priority on the need to improve the verification process of indigents who appear in courts.
• The following measures have been taken since the beginning of 2011, which have resulted in an improved streamlined verification system and compliance with all of the recommendations proposed by the State Auditor’s office:
• In February, all Chief Probation Officers received mandatory retraining of the laws and regulations governing the indigency verification process and were told to instruct their staffs. OCP senior staff conducted random checks for compliance with requirements at local courts and follow up training was provided, as needed.
• Internal performance audits of local court compliance with new required standards of practice were conducted and monthly data reporting to OCP on number of verifications reported were required.
• In July, staff were informed of new statutory requirements regarding indigency verification. A senior level contact person was designated to assist.
• In September, meetings were held throughout the state to review the new statute and related operations. Indigency verification “best practice” guidelines were given to all Chief Probation Officers. Although the statute allows some discretion, Chief Probation Officer were instructed to check DOR records in all cases.
• In October, a three-month study in Midddlesex Superior Court, Worcester and Stoughton District Courts and Berkshire Juvenile Court commenced to examine and assess best methods for indigency verification. Results will be analyzed and distributed in early 2012. The numbers to date reflect that there is very little misrepresentation occurring.
• With participation of auditors from the Administrative Office of the Trial Court, OCP is conducting its own audits of the compliance of probation officers with all audits to be completed by the end of December.
• In October, Commissioner Corbett with the Commissioners of the Department of Revenue and Transitional Assistance signed Memorandums of Understanding allowing probation to gain electronic access to data to increase efficiency of verification process. Probation Officers have had access to financial data from DOR for a number of years. Probation may also view benefit information from the DTA through a new electronic link.