- Massachusetts Probation Service
Media Contact for The Massachusetts Probation Service reflects on pandemic anniversary and its transformation to meet probationers’ and the public’s needs
Coria Holland, Communications Director
The Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS), an agency whose work involved regular face to face interaction with the public, transformed itself into a mobile operation during COVID-19 and expanded services for probationers, including housing for those being released from prison as well as new technology and access to expanded health care resources.
“Probation has a lot to be proud of,” said Probation Commissioner Edward Dolan who managed MPS’ transformation.
The following are among MPS’ 10 top accomplishments over the past year when on-site staff was minimized due to COVID-19 restrictions. These accomplishments, which benefit probationers and the public, are as follows:
- Probation Officers remotely supervised 65,000 probationers using agency-issued specially equipped laptops and cell phones.
- MPS helped provide much needed residential re-entry housing, 126 transitional beds, for individuals leaving prison. The agency also made 150 shelter or sober beds statewide.
- Probation is the recipient of numerous grants to expand and enhance services for probationers, including the $6 million Project North (Navigation Outreach Recovery Treatment and Hope) grant. This grant was awarded to the Trial Court as part of the Comprehensive Opiate, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) to enhance court coordinated treatment services in 12 courts serving 62 communities. The Project North grant is to help individuals struggling with substance use disorders.
- The new Interactive Text Response System (ITR), which alerts probationers of upcoming court dates and meetings, is now available in courts across the Commonwealth. This new text messaging system, launched November 10, was designed to reduce the number of warrants issued for “failure to appear” and reduce unnecessary pretrial detention. During the pandemic when courts are operating with a smaller staff, defendants are reminded to check in with lawyers who will provide a virtual court date. Individuals may also check with the Clerk’s office. Roughly 35 percent of defendants nationwide fail to appear for court dates. In the Bay State, 12.6 percent of defendants fail to show up, according to Deputy Commissioner of Pretrial Services Pamerson Ifill.
- MPS has been on the forefront of distributing PPE in the Trial Court during the pandemic with MTOC becoming a staging area for the deployment of equipment to the courts.
- Victim Services Unit received $1.1 million Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant to expand outreach to victims and survivors. VSU hired three staff members to provide services to more than 4,420 individuals.
- The Statewide Food Supply Drive collects nearly nine tons of food which is donated to local food pantries across the state. The drive was the idea of a Probation employee in Berkshire County as a way to help those struggling financially during the pandemic.
- Probation expanded its Behavioral Health Justice Initiative Pilot with MassHealth. The program helps individuals navigate re- entry into the community along with assistance coordinating health care for them.
- MPS and the Trial Court’s Public Outreach Committee produced a five-part series on the transition from incarceration to Probation.
- A Massachusetts Probation Service Program Inventory, featuring 252 statewide resources, was created by the eight Field Services Operations Coordinators (FSOC)s. The inventory was compiled and was constantly updated to provide Probation Officers with the most current information in ‘real time’ on available programs and treatment providers for probationers and court-users during the COVID-19 pandemic.