Management of the Massachusetts Probation Department is “dysfunctional'' and legislators should give back to judges the power to hire and supervise key court personnel, including probation officers and assistant clerks, says a state commission report quoted by the Boston Globe.
“This is about politics and who will control the major agencies and these jobs,'' said Scott Harshbarger, a former state attorney general and president of the board at Community Resources for Justice, an organization that conducted the Boston Foundation study. “We cannot afford to have a system that is geared to politics and patronage that is costing us hugely.'' The state legislature, which has used the probation department to dole out patronage jobs to constituents, relatives, and political supporters, gave commissioner John O'Brien control of the agency at a time when legislators believed that the courts, which were trying to diversify the ranks of probation officers and clerks, were ignoring their demands. O'Brien, because of his close ties to lawmakers, emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the state court system.