Goals and Mission
The primary goals and mission of the Massachusetts Probation Service Pretrial Services Division (PSD) is the establishment of a system of broad-based collaborative partnerships that include the court, criminal justice agencies, and community service providers that enables a set of comprehensive policies, guidelines and practices to improve pretrial services throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and assist with the minimization of unnecessary pretrial detention through a wide-ranging system of pretrial services.
Pretrial Services operates under the premise, supported by federal and state constitutions, and through the Massachusetts Trial Court, Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS), and local office policies that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to reasonable bail. Defendants are also entitled to the least restrictive release terms possible, depending on whether they are likely to appear in court and whether they present a risk to public safety. Through existing and new Pretrial Supervision Standards and Practices, pretrial officers strive to perform an essential service in a fair and effective manner. Through a network of treatment and service options provided by the Office of Community Corrections (OCC) and collaborating providers and agencies, pretrial defendants will be afforded opportunities to engage in treatment, retain and/or pursue educational and employment opportunities, support their families, and function more effectively in their communities.
eReminder Program (Interactive Text Response)
The Massachusetts Probation Service, in partnership with the Trial Court’s Judicial Information Services Department (“JISD”) worked to develop an eReminder system for all court departments. The goal of the eReminder is to minimize unnecessary pretrial detention and provide reminders to defendants of court appearance obligations to reduce the risk of accidental defaults.
The Probation Intake and Indigency Verification form has been revamped; it now allows for defendants and probationers to enroll into the electronic notification program. The eReminder system was successfully piloted in Worcester Superior, Greenfield and Wareham District Courts, and the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court. In May of 2021, the program expanded to the Probate & Family, Juvenile, and the Housing Court Departments. Most recently, in April of 2023, the eReminder program expanded to certain civil case types and court events in the District, Superior and BMC Court Departments. Now, litigants can sign up to receive text messages for civil cases through the Clerk’s Office where their civil matter has been filed.
In 2022, over 262,000 text messages were delivered to defendants and litigants throughout the Trial Court Departments. This year, we are working with JISD to enhance the eReminder program to include email messages and an opt-out feature, so that court users can opt out of the eReminder program unilaterally without contacting court personnel.
A single event type, pretrial hearings, was analyzed to determine the impact of the eReminders on failure to appear rates. The Department of Research and Planning (“DRAP”) analyzed 70,000 pretrial hearing events scheduled in the Boston Municipal and District Court Departments:
In the text reminder group, 11% failed to appear at the pretrial hearing event, compared to 14% for the no text reminder group. The failure to appear rate at pretrial hearing events was consistently lower for the text reminder group regardless of age, race/ethnicity, gender, or offense severity. (Data compiled as of November 2022).
The eReminder notification flyer has been translated in the following ten languages, Arabic, Chinese, Cape Verdean Creole, English, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Please see the eReminder flyers for further reference.
Pretrial Supervision Standards & Training
The Pretrial Services Division implemented the Pretrial Supervision Standards and Training, with the assistance of the Pretrial Standards Committee. The Pretrial Supervision Standards will be delivered by MPS and OCC Staff along with staff from the Massachusetts Training and Operations Center (MTOC). The training will be mandatory for all MPS and OCC Staff, throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The training will be delivered by MPS Staff who are expertly trained in the area of Pretrial Services.
The Pretrial Services Division continues researching and incorporating training policies and practices to ensure the proper determination of risk factors are considered, which ultimately enhance supervision. The Pretrial Services Division is examining data pertaining to Failure to Appear (FTAs), FTA Warrants, and re-arrest rates.
The Lyft Study was conducted in partnership between Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab (A2J Lab) and the Pretrial Services Division. The Lyft research study was grant funded and was initially piloted in Cambridge and Malden District Courts. It later expanded to Middlesex and Essex Superior Courts, Haverhill, Lawrence, and Lynn District Courts. The study was designed to determine whether the offer of free Lyft rides would reduce a defendant’s failure to appear in their criminal case. Defendants were subject to eligibility criteria and had to qualify for transportation to and from the courthouse during the pendency of their criminal case.
The study consisted of two study groups; the “Ride Not Offered Group” which did not receive the Lyft rides and the “Ride Offered Group” which did receive two free Lyft rides. A probation employee oversaw ordering the Lyft ride for participants to get to and from court. Participants in the “Ride Offered Group” were given information on how to contact the Probation Department on the day of their hearing. After the hearing, they were instructed to return to the Probation Department to have a ride ordered for them to return home, work, or an approved public transportation stop. They had six months from their arraignment date to use two round trip Lyft rides.
On August 3, 2022, the study closed with 55 participants enrolled. Of the 55 participants, split evenly between the “Ride Not Offered Group” and the “Ride Offered Group”, only 2 participants used rides. Due to low enrollment, A2J Lab could not draw any conclusions regarding the impact a free ride to court might have had on failure to appear rates.
Thank you to all the courts who participated in this study. Their collaboration was instrumental to its implementation.
To learn more about Harvard Law School A2J Lab, please visit About the A2J Lab.
Pretrial Services & OCC
The Pretrial Services Unit, in collaboration with the Office of Community Corrections (OCC) is implementing the delivery of programming and services for pretrial defendants. These efforts include increasing referrals for pretrial defendants to OCC and expanding services and treatment capacity in underserved communities. To learn more about OCC, please see OCC Programs.
Contact the PSD Team
|Pamerson Ifill||Deputy Commissioner for Pretrial Servicesemail@example.com||(617) 780-5025|
|Jameson Dorrine||Pretrial Services Operations Coordinatorfirstname.lastname@example.org||(857) 406-3664|
|Natalie Lorenti||Pretrial Services Administratoremail@example.com||(617) 777-4369|
|Mahlet Kebede||Administrative Secretaryfirstname.lastname@example.org||(508) 552-1759|
|Donna Wilson||Pretrial Services Operations Coordinatoremail@example.com||(508) 552-1545|
|Shawnta Reid||Pretrial Services Operations Coordinatorfirstname.lastname@example.org||(857) 445-2897|
|Daniel Klein||Pretrial Services Operations Coordinatoremail@example.com||(508) 769-7195|
|Edward Colon||Pretrial Services Operations Coordinatorfirstname.lastname@example.org||(857) 321-0702|
Contact for About the Pretrial Services Division
Open M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm.