MA Probation Department: Job Agency For The Well-Connected


After 12 years in charge, Jack O'Brien has transformed the Massachusetts Probation Department from a national pioneer of better ways to rehabilitate criminals into an organization that functions more like a private employment agency for the well connected, says the Boston Globe. O'Brien's agency employs at least 250 friends, relatives, and financial backers of politicians and top court officials, including children of U.S. Representative William D. Delahunt, former mayor Raymond Flynn of Boston, and former Senate president William Bulger. The agency has also hired House Speaker Robert DeLeo's godson, who, at 28, is now the youngest chief probation officer in Massachusetts.

O'Brien has taken care of friends, too, finding jobs for the children of his Boston College football teammate, for a friend who ran a fur shop, for a former plasterer friendly with Cahill, and promoting two probation officers who moonlight as bartenders at a Northampton pizza joint frequented by one of his top deputies. Along the way, O'Brien's family has also benefited. The Probation Department's friends in the Legislature have delivered: The department's budget grew more than 160 percent from 1998 to 2008, a period in which other public safety agencies' spending increased by 20 percent or less. Promising job candidates who don't have political connections are routinely passed over to make way for the politically wired.

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