Site Meter

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Parole Board pick backs away from Cinelli comments

Parole Board pick backs away from Cinelli comments

Says his remarks on case were made without all facts

By Matt Murphy, State House News Service / March 23, 2011

In a hearing on the last of Governor Deval Patrick’s four remaining nominees to the Parole Board, retired federal chief probation officer John Bocon walked back on comments he made during a private meeting with a councilor when he said he would not have voted to parole career felon Dominic Cinelli, who killed a Woburn police officer last year.

“Yeah, to a degree,’’ Bocon said, when asked if he should have answered differently. “Going through this process has been a series of questions with limited facts.’’

Bocon, under extended questioning from the Governor’s Council, said he did not have all the facts in the Cinelli case and therefore should have withheld judgment.

Bocon’s interview, which lasted nearly four hours, was the last with a series of nominees who appeared before the Governor’s Council following the resignation of five Parole Board members following the slaying of Officer John Maguire by Cinelli.

With the governor’s nominee for chairman of the Parole Board, Joshua Wall, already confirmed, the four nominees could all be voted upon next Wednesday.

Councilor Marilyn Devaney told her colleagues that in a private meeting Bocon had told her he would not have paroled Cinelli, knowing that he had previously escaped from prison and shot a security guard.

Devaney said she has asked every nominee the same question, and three of four told her they would have kept Cinelli behind bars.

Only Ina Howard Hogan, the general counsel to the Parole Board, told Devaney she needed more information, according to Devaney.

At yesterday’s hearing, however, Devaney’s question prompted a grilling of the nominee by other members of the council, who questioned why Bocon felt confident enough to make a judgment on Cinelli despite not knowing all the facts of the case and whether he was simply telling councilors what he thought they wanted to hear.

“I’d say I don’t have all the facts,’’ Bocon said, changing his position after Councilor Christopher Iannella established that Bocon had no knowledge of Cinelli’s institutional record, the rehabilitation programs he might have participated in while in prison, or his full criminal history.

Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning further probed Bocon’s knowledge of the Cinelli case before asking if he could guess what she thought was the correct answer to her question.

“Aren’t you figuring out what each of us wants to hear and telling us what we want to hear?’’ Manning said.

Bocon, a career probation official in the federal court system, retired last November as the chief federal probation officer in Boston when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 57. He told the council he was trying to be as truthful as he could, while still responding to the scores of hypothetical scenarios posed to him.

With 36 years in the criminal justice system, Bocon said that when he became chief probation officer in Boston he worked to transform the office from a law enforcement operation to a social work and treatment office.

Bocon said he believes parole improved public safety by giving released prisoners supervision and assistance in reintegrating to society rather than just releasing them back into the community at the end of their sentence.

Though he declined to offer his view on criminal offender record information laws because he said it was a legislative policy matter, Bocon did say he would support making Parole Board votes a public record.

He also declined to indicate how much his federal pension is worth, but said he would not be willing to waive or accept a reduced salary if confirmed to the Parole Board.

Attorney Stephen Huggard, a partner at Palmer and Dodge and a former federal prosecutor, testified on Bocon’s behalf, telling the council that Bocon was a man of “intellect and integrity’’ who could balance the needs of society with the rights of victims and the convicted who might come before him.

Paula Verdet of the Boston University Prison Project and Leslie Walker, the director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, testified against Bocon’s nomination despite acknowledging his qualifications.

Both Verdet and Walker questioned the make-up of the board, saying that Patrick’s slate of nominees lacked a psychiatrist or anyone with direct experience in dealing with inmates.

They also said it was important that the board have someone who appreciates the ability of an offender to be reformed over time.

“If, in fact, Mr. Bocon were to be on the board, there will be absolutely no one on the Parole Board who has worked with an incarcerated person, which I think is sad, unfortunate, and extremely shortsighted,’’ Walker said.

Walker said that since the Cinelli case she believes there has been reluctance among Parole Board members to release prisoners.

“I have never seen the level of hopelessness in prisons,’’ Walker said. “And as prisoners have said to me, a hopeless prisoner can be a dangerous prisoner.’’

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

No comments: