Yesterday, the Patrick-Murray Administration filed legislation which proposes a consolidation of all community supervision of adult offenders and defendants into one single agency. Having worked in the system for many years, wearing many hats, but mostly as a former probation officer and prosecutor, I am genuinely excited about the potential of this idea because of the positive impact it will have.
It’s important to understand how the system is currently set up to truly understand why this makes such great sense. Most people are familiar with the concepts of probation and parole- the probation department supervises offenders in lieu of incarceration, and parole supervises offenders released directly from incarceration. Many individuals are supervised by both the probation department and parole during their criminal careers, but because the two agencies are separate entities who report to separate authorities, there is little communication between them. More importantly, each has its own set of rules and guidelines which creates inconsistency and ineffectiveness. Despite the fact that the two agencies cross paths frequently, records regarding the offenders’ program participation, successes, failures, risks and needs are not shared. As a result, when one agency picks up where the other left off, services are often duplicated and efforts are wasted.
The Department of Re-entry and Community Supervision (DRCS) will follow an offender from the early pretrial stages of the criminal process to an inmate’s release from prison. Services will build on one another. In making sentencing and prison release decisions, the courts and the Parole Board will be able to rely on recommendations of a single department that will use risk and needs assessments and other evidence-based tools as a matter of practice. The DRCS will apply a set schedule of intermediate and graduated sanctions creating a system that is consistent and reliable in its punishment for violations, and in its communications and interactions with victims, therefore significantly enhancing public safety in the Commonwealth.