State Leaders Push Plans For Probation Dept. Reform

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Dec. 7, 2010

BOSTON — The governor and top lawmakers say they will reform the state's troubled Probation Department in the new year.

The move comes after an independent report found that job candidates with recommendations from state legislators were regularly chosen for probation jobs over applicants with better qualifications. 

House Speaker Robert Deleo says he will file legislation to make hiring at the probation department subject to civil-service rules. Under that system, job applicants would take a civil-service test and only those with the highest scores would be eligible for jobs.  Deleo says the change would reduce the chances for political interference:

“Now there’s going to be a list that’s going to have three candidates on it. So I think that takes it, you know, out of the hands of any recommendations," DeLeo said. " They’re going to have to pass a test, to show their fluency in probation matters is good and they’re ready to assume the job.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Patrick, DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray say they will appoint a nine-member bipartisan commission to develop broader plans to overhaul the department.  At the same time, the Supreme Judicial Court has named its own task force to come up with ways to fix probation.  

Senate President Therese Murray says that the reforms — whatever they may be — will pass by mid-June.  Until then, Murray says, probation won't get another cent from the Legislature.



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