SJC Orders Increased Transparency In Probation Dept.

By Sarah Birnbaum

Feb. 25, 2011

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is bringing big changes to the state's troubled probation department.

The move comes months after a scathing report found that the department had become a patronage haven for lawmakers who secured jobs for relatives and financial backers. 
Under the new rules, the department will need to keep electronic records of who gets hired, promoted, and why. That's meant to make it easier for officials to track hiring practices there. The department will be required to conduct annual performance evaluations of employees.  And hiring managers won’t be allowed to see job recommendations from public officials or anyone else until a job candidate reaches the final stages of the interview process. 
Steven Crosby, the dean of the Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass-Boston, is on a task force that counseled the court to make the changes.  He says the reforms will help clean up the department.

“There are two critical objectives. One is to bring transparency to the system. Two is to ensure that merit drives the hiring,” Crosby said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a bill to merge the probation and parole departments and to move both under the control of the executive branch. The justices on the SJC want to keep control of the probation department under the judicial branch.  No public hearings on Patrick's bill have been scheduled yet.   

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