News Massachusetts Probation Service Celebrates Pretrial and Probation Supervision Week and Reflects on John Augustus, the "Father of Probation"

Read more to learn some little known facts and firsts for MPS
  • Massachusetts Probation Service

Media Contact for Massachusetts Probation Service Celebrates Pretrial and Probation Supervision Week and Reflects on John Augustus, the "Father of Probation"

Coria Holland, Communications Director

This month, the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS) is celebrating Pretrial and Probation Supervision Week. As MPS celebrates its staff, work, and achievements, we reflect on the "Father of Probation," John Augustus, whose impactful work and mission continue to influence probation departments throughout the country and abroad.

Here are some little known facts and firsts for MPS.

The Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS)’ Little Known Facts and Firsts

The Massachusetts Probation Service, the country’s first probation agency established in 1878, is joining the more than 100,000 community corrections professionals throughout the US and Canada in celebrating Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week 2023, July 16-22, and this year’s theme is “Stronger Together.” There are currently 650 line Probation Officers and 200 Associate Probation Officers who supervise 52,145 cases in Massachusetts.

As MPS celebrates Pretrial and Probation Supervision during the month of July, it’s time to reflect on the agency’s important and impactful role in history and the person who conceived of Probation, John Augustus, a factory owner also known as the “Father of Probation.” Mr. Augustus believed people could be rehabilitated through “understanding and treatment” instead of incarceration. MPS continues to be inspired by Mr. Augustus’ leadership and compassion.

Little Known Fact: John Augustus, Father of Probation, was involved in Boston’s abolitionist movement

Mr. Augustus was known as the “Shoemaker Philanthropist,” according to the National Park Service which features the Father of Probation on its site. The Park Service recognizes him for “dedicating his life to prison reform, the temperance movement, and anti-slavery causes." An article in “The Liberator” newspaper confirms Mr. Augustus served in the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1839. Records also show that he donated money at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in June 1841.

MPS' Firsts

Electronic monitoring

In 2001, the MPS was among the first in the United States to track probationers using the GPS device as an alternative to jail time, and in 2005, became one of the first states to track high-risk offenders using the GPS monitoring device as an added supervision tool. MPS is among the few states who perform its own monitoring of offenders using the system.

Massachusetts was the first state to monitor domestic violence offenders using the GPS device, and has served as a catalyst for states such as Connecticut and Illinois, which used the MPS as a model. MPS became one of the few state agencies to use crime correlation, a tracking system to determine if a person is on or in the vicinity of a crime scene.

Evidence-based practices

MPS continued to lead the way in 2016, when it implemented a set of validated risk assessment tools, the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), and Ohio Youth Assessment System (OYAS). These risk assessment tools align with MPS' mission to keep the public safe by changing the trajectory of the lives of the people who come into MPS' care and custody.

Operation NiteLite

In 1994, MPS created Operation NiteLite, a successful model of community supervision. The model pairs probation officers with police to conduct regular field work, which includes interactions with probationers, victims, and the community at large. During special operations, probation officers also work collaboratively with state and federal law enforcement agencies on warrant sweeps.

MPS was the first to track restraining order violations

In 1978, MPS became the first agency to create national Restraining Order Registry to track domestic violence offenders with law enforcement and affiliate partners.

MPS is among the first to offer access to healthcare

The Massachusetts Probation Service is among the first Probation Service agencies to offer access to health care through enrollment in a public health care insurance plan. A group of MPS employees have been trained and certified to enroll eligible clients in the plan.

Media Contact for Massachusetts Probation Service Celebrates Pretrial and Probation Supervision Week and Reflects on John Augustus, the "Father of Probation"

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