Officials in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, the iconic islands near Hyannis, Massachusetts have expressed grave concern over a recent decision by the state’s Trial Court to reduce the number of hours allowed for the island’s only juvenile probation officer.
Shawn Schofield, who has been serving as the sole probation officer for the islands for several years, has the task of having regular meetings with troubled youth in an effort to help keep them out of trouble and headed in a positive direction in their lives. Following the Court’s decision, several of the area’s law enforcement and political officials sent letters to Lonnie Welchman, the head of the islands’ juvenile probation office, expressing their sincere disappointment at the decision.
It is not entirely clear to many outside the Court yet why the decision was made but representatives from the Massachusetts District Attorney’s office said they believe it is likely the result of the shortage of probation officers that is being seen statewide.
Schofield has been reassigned to serve other areas of the state that he is believed to be needed in more than the islands. A spokesperson for the Probation Commissioner’s Office stated that it was necessary to cut Schofield’s hours and change his jurisdiction because the juvenile court system needs to ensure that cases throughout the state are equally distributed.
Other island officials stated that the changes to Schofield’s hours and the overall distribution plan of which they are a part take into account the needs of all of the courts in the state in general and the Islands in particular.
Other community leaders have expressed concern because it is believed that the reduction in hours for the only probation officer in the area could lead to an increase in juvenile criminal activity. If offenders know that their probation officer is not going to be around very much, it is likely, officials say, that they will have a greater probability and opportunity to act out.