“Not only was I stunned by the way some of the councilors conducted themselves, but I was also disheartened by the lack of probing questions”
We typically get lots of responses to Jean Trounstine’s hard-hitting coverage of Massachusetts prisons and parole. Her most recent feature, “Unruly, Argumentative Governor’s Council Inflames Parole Board Hearings” has especially spurred readers to respond, including many people who advocate for the rights of prisoners.
We published three of those letters below to advance the conversation around parole and the Governor’s Council.
Chris Faraone, Editor-in-Chief
Thank you, Jean Trounstine (“Unruly, Argumentative Governor’s Council,”6/21) for so aptly capturing the scene at the Governor’s Council hearings held on June 15th for Governor Baker’s nominees to the Parole Board, Representative James Kelcourse and Dr. Maryanne Galvin.
I attended both hearings and testified as a member of Parole Watch in support of Dr. Galvin’s nomination. Observing Representative Kelcourse’s hearing, which came first, I was taken aback by the treatment of opposition witnesses as detailed by Ms. Trounstine. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a meeting with elected officials where a citizen, respectfully offering testimony, has been cut off so dismissively. It certainly rattled me, as did the infighting between members of the Council, particularly because this was my first time testifying at a hearing.
I noted that Councilor Duff repeatedly emphasized her view that the Parole Board is extremely dysfunctional and rife with infighting and low morale. Sadly, I’m afraid that this hearing confirmed the public perception that the Governor’s Council suffers the same pitfalls.
To the editor:
As noted in “Unruly, Argumentative Governor’s Council,” Chairwoman Duff responded to my testimony in opposition to Rep. Kelcourse by saying “you’re not telling us anything we don’t know . . we know more than you do.”
Duff made sure to let everyone at the hearing know that she cares deeply about the Parole Board. Why would a public servant discourage a citizen who has devoted time and energy to the issue of parole from sharing thoughts and observations about the essential skills needed on the Board? Telling engaged and educated citizens that you know more about issues than they do, and thus their input is unwelcome and a waste of time, is not the attitude one expects from public servants.
Also noted in the article, while testifying, there was significant back and forth among the councillors about the length of time a councillor was permitted to speak, as well as interruptions and accusations of lying. As a member of the public testifying at a public hearing, this was extremely uncomfortable.
And lastly, Duff as well as Councillor Kennedy suggested that since I didn’t know the candidate personally or had not met with him, my opposition was “kneejerk.” In applying for a position, one’s resume and record are the key factors considered. The Parole Board is in dire need of core competencies in the social sciences, psychology, substance abuse. Rep. Kelcourse’s record indicates no experience in these areas. A sincere desire to “help” is not enough.
In reference to Dig’s article about UNRULY, ARGUMENTATIVE GOVERNOR’S COUNCIL INFLAMES PAROLE BOARD HEARINGS, I attended the hearing and testified in opposition to Rep. Kelcourse’s nomination to the Parole Board.
Not only was I stunned by the way some of the councilors conducted themselves, but I was also disheartened by the lack of probing questions that some of the councilors directed to this thoroughly unqualified candidate. As we are all aware, sometimes the Governor uses his power of appointment to nominate well-qualified people to fill government positions and sometimes the Governor uses his power of appointment to reward his friends and promote his allies. The nomination of State Representative James Kelcourse to the Parole Board is an example of the latter. This nomination appears to be all politics and patronage, having nothing to do with what is best for the Parole Board and the people of Massachusetts. Our Governor’s Councilors have the opportunity to stand together and tell the Governor that the Massachusetts Parole Board needs more people of color with backgrounds in human services and social services. James Kelcourse is a white Republican attorney and politician who has no relevant education, experience, or training and who has explained to the Council that he will use the position of Parole Board member as a steppingstone to becoming a judge. The Massachusetts Parole Board needs someone who believes in parole and re-entry. Let’s hope the Governor’s Councilors figure that out.
Co-Director Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Rights
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.