The Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS or Probation) has a key role in helping to identify indications of substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders; facilitating connections to comprehensive assessments; ensuring that judges are informed about assessment results; arranging treatment placements; and monitoring compliance with case plans, recommended treatment interventions, and court-imposed conditions. MPS should strive to establish and maintain relationships with local treatment providers. If specific services are not available in a particular community, MPS should determine where such services are available and strive to develop and maintain relationships with those providers.
It is critical that every probation officer have training and competence in substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders if courts are to respond effectively to these issues. MPS has a role in identifying situations where substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders may be contributing to behaviors of concern before the court. Probation officers may also be able to provide information on specific persons before the court derived from familiarity with the person, from the available case-related records, from court-related interactions with the person, from assessments and screening tools, from contact with family members or community partners, or from formal evaluations. Probation officers are available to assist judges in facilitating timely connections to comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment; and monitoring compliance with the case plan, recommended treatment interventions, and court-ordered conditions in criminal cases. MPS should provide relevant information to the court in a manner consistent with limitations on ex parte communications.
The Commissioner of Probation sets standards for ensuring that probation officers receive necessary training in the field of substance use disorders, mental health conditions, co-occurring disorders, which includes training on trauma, stigma, recovery science, and behavior change. The court may rely on trained probation officers to assist the court with substance use disorders, mental health conditions, or co-occurring disorders at all stages of a criminal case, including pretrial proceedings, even before probation is imposed. A probation officer’s role is limited when a person is not on court-ordered probation, but a probation officer’s role in supporting individuals voluntarily is not limited.
Probation may be heard as required by the court at the time of sentencing in criminal or delinquency proceedings, or when an order is issued in a Probate and Family Court proceeding, regarding knowledge of the defendant, history of the case, past assessments and evaluations, and criminal history. Probation may also provide recommendations regarding condition-setting to mitigate risk and address needs identified in materials available to Probation.
Contact for Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions: Standard IV. Role of the Massachusetts Probation Service
Francis V. Kenneally, Clerk
Maura S. Doyle, Clerk
Jennifer Donahue, Public Information Officer