Learn about the Massachusetts Probation Service’s famous firsts

Find out how the Massachusetts Probation Service paved the way in probation services.

The Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS), established in 1878, was the nation’s first probation agency. Boston boot-maker John Augustus introduced the concept of probation. He believed that people could be rehabilitated through understanding and treatment instead of jail.

Today, the MPS continues to be inspired by the vision of John Augustus. We believe that the potential for positive, lasting changes can occur over time, during every interaction between probationers and our skilled probation officers, from assessment to case planning, to supervision and support, to sanctions and rewards.

First to track restraining order violators

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

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.

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. We are among a few states who perform our own monitoring of offenders using the system.

Massachusetts was the first state to monitor domestic violence offenders using the GPS bracelet, 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 at or in the vicinity of a crime scene.

Evidence-based practices

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

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