the battle rages over which branch of government will control probation—and its $150 million budget—in Massachusetts. But looking for help to see how other states do it offers little in the way of guidance.
According to the American Probation and Parole Association, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or best-practices template to overseeing the people who oversee the criminals. Massachusetts is one of 11 states where the courts oversee probation. The majority have it under various agencies in the executive branch, while eight states place the burden on county government. Alabama, oddly, gives its legislature control of probation.
While the judiciary technically oversees probation in Massachusetts, it’s not quite that simple. Under now-suspended Commissioner of Probation John O’Brien, the agency enjoyed an unusual degree of autonomy. Thanks to his friends in the Legislature, O’Brien controlled his own budget and could hire and fire employees with little interference.Back in January, Gov. Deval Patrick filed a bill that would move probation into the executive branch and place it under the same agency that oversees parole. When media stories blew the cover off the patronage-laden system at probation, the question of who should oversee the agency moved to the front burner. The Legislature responded by creating a commission to recommend a course of action, with a report due later this year.
Source: American Probation and Parole Association