Building a Strong Courtroom Workgroup that Includes Probation Agencies: Lessons Learned from Massachusetts


Monday, February 26, 2024
2:15 PM - 3:15 PM
Session Type: Workshop

Probation agencies typically work with a variety of justice actors in the courts, including judges, prosecution, clerks, and defense attorneys. Collaboration between these different actors is important to facilitate informed sentencing and condition-setting. However, there is little guidance on how to forge a strong “courtroom workgroup” where these actors have frequent communication, positive relationships, and work collaboratively on appropriate conditions. Based on interviews and focus groups with 90 officers, chiefs, and staff across 23 offices in the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS), we review examples of courtroom workgroups and how they impact probation services. We focus on several case studies that showcase well-established, in-progress, or inactive courtroom workgroups, and we discuss factors that helped and hindered MPS staff when making efforts to build them. We conclude with recommendations for probation agencies seeking to improve their relationships with other justice actors in the courts. This project is funded by Arnold Ventures (all opinions are those of the researchers).


CJ Appleton
Doctoral Student, George Mason University

CJ Appleton is a doctoral student in the Criminology, Law, and Society department at George Mason University. He currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence! (ACE!) under the direction of Dr. Faye S. Taxman.

Gwyn Kaitis
Program Analyst, Council of State Governments

Gwyn Kaitis, MA, is a Program Analyst with the American Probation and Parole Association, providing training and technical assistance and leading APPA’s efforts on a variety of projects to advance the field of community corrections. She has a background in intimate partner violence having served as Coalition Policy Director, Shelter Executive Director, trainer with the Chicago Police Academy, and serving as Chair of the New Mexico Intimate Partner Violence Death Review Team.

Ben Mackey
Graduate Student, George Mason University

Benjamin Mackey, M.A., is a Research Associate with the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!) and a doctoral student in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. His work focuses on probation, parole, and the role of the private sector in spreading new criminal justice innovations in community corrections and beyond. He has conducted trainings on supervision conditions and condition-setting with community supervision officers, administrators, and chiefs across the country. Before beginning his academic career, he worked in reentry in Washington, DC.

Faye S. Taxman, PhD
University Professor, George Mason University

Faye S. Taxman is a University Professor at the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!) and Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She has worked on reengineering community supervision to adapt to evidence-based practices and has been at the forefront of efforts to identify, develop, and implement evidence-based supervision.