Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, unable to resolve a power struggle with House and Senate leaders, is pressing ahead with a plan to merge the troubled state Probation Department and the embattled Parole Board, put them under his control, and slash their budgets, reports the Boston Globe. Patrick was acting on his long-stated goal of combining the agencies and seizing control, which he said would lead to better monitoring of prisoners before and after their release.
The proposal, which would create a new Department of Reentry and Community Supervision, set the stage for a political battle with legislative leaders and the state's top judges, who have resisted the governor's call to transfer the Probation Department from the judiciary to the executive branch. Patrick already controls the Parole Board. Under the governor's plan, which requires legislative approval, not only would the probation and parole systems be combined, their budgets would be cut 9 percent, or $14 million, in the next fiscal year. Patrick aides said the spending reduction, which will be included in the governor's full budget proposal today, more accurately reflected demands on the two agencies. An independent investigator said last year that the Probation Department had been receiving unjustified increases to its budget as a reward for hiring friends and associates of lawmakers.