How MA Is Trying To Clean Up Probation Mess


Acting Massachusetts probation commissioner Ronald Corbett is trying to clean up the mess that John O'Brien left behind when he was suspended in May for presiding over what an independent counsel has described as “pervasive fraud'' in hiring and promotion, says the Boston Globe. Running a troubled 2,200-employee agency, the buttoned-down Corbett replaced a boss who ruled by intimidation and conveyed his most important orders on yellow stick-on notes while apparently seldom touching his computer.

Special counsel Paul Ware concluded that O'Brien had spent much of his 12-year reign running an elaborate phony hiring system to hide the fact that he was funneling jobs to politically connected candidates. Corbett still must work alongside many of the O'Brien loyalists whom Ware blamed most for what he called fraudulent hiring and promotion. Corbett tells the people work for him, “Take a page from [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick. We're focusing on the next engagement. And that's it.'' O’Brien said the department supervised more than 250,000 people, a number the Globe said was a grossly inflated figure intended to give the impression that his staff was overworked. Corbett found that the real number under probation's responsibility is about 85,000. Corbett also has begun to dismantle O'Brien's bloated electronic monitoring program, which was created to track the movement of offenders wearing electronic ankle bracelets but appeared more focused on creating jobs. The Globe found that the department had more electronic monitoring employees – 59 – and more monitoring centers – three – than any other state, yet it failed to protect a woman who was repeatedly raped and held hostage for five hours by a convicted rapist wearing one of the bracelets.

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