Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
Images from the Feb. 17 MBA sponsored event, "A New Path for Probation."
Photos by Tricia Oliver.
Panel debates who should oversee Probation Dept.
In the aftermath of patronage hiring abuses at the state's
Probation Department, an overflow crowd this morning witnessed
members of the judicial, legislative and executive branches debate
who should manage the troubled agency.
"A New Path for Probation" drew more than 175 attendees to Suffolk
University Law School, with people lining the walls to listen in on
the discussion. The event was presented by MassINC, the publisher
of CommonWealth magazine, sponsored by the Massachusetts
Bar Association and hosted by Suffolk University Law School's
The panel, which was moderated by CommonWealth Publisher
Greg Torres, featured:
- Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A.
- Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan;
- Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, co-chair of the Joint Committee on
the Judiciary and a member of the Probation Reform Working Group;
- John Larivee, CEO of Community Resources for Justice.
MBA President Denise Squillante, in her introductory remarks,
noted that "The MBA supports the preservation of the Probation
Department as a part of the judiciary." Former Massachusetts
Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger, who chairs the SJC's Task
Force on Hiring in the Judicial Branch, was unable to attend but
provided a video in which he lamented that the once-proud
department had deliberately become "a fundamentally corrupt
Mulligan argued that the judiciary should continue to oversee the
agency, noting that veteran court officer Ronald Corbett Jr. has
achieved "extraordinary" results since being appointed acting
commissioner. He cautioned against judging the current agency in
the same light as the one that led to former Commissioner John
"It's a new day in probation," Mulligan said.
Heffernan also praised Corbett's leadership, but argued that Gov.
Deval Patrick's plans to bring the Probation Department under the
authority of the executive branch would improve public safety,
provide better oversight and transparency and save money. She noted
that Patrick had developed his proposal years ago, before the
agency's problems became public.
Larivee noted that other states have successful probation
departments regardless of whether they're run by the judiciary or
the executive branch.
"The argument about where it ought to be ought to come last," he
said, adding that the priority should be deciding what kind of
agency it should be. "It can work in either location, but it
depends on how it's run."
Creem said she was not speaking for the Legislature, but noted
that putting both agencies under the same authority raises other
concerns, alluding to the recent dismissal of several Parole Board
members over a controversial decision.
"We've got a lot of problems in both departments that we've got to
look at, and in the criminal justice system as a whole," she
Click here to read CommonWealth
magazine's event coverage.
Click here to view video clips of the