By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- Some prison inmates should "never see the light of day" while others deserve a second or third chance, Tina Hurley - Gov. Deval Patrick's nominee for a seat on the Parole Board - said during her confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Hurley, who appeared before the Governor's Council, said she chose a career in criminal justice because she likes the fact that there are two components to it. "Keeping communities safe, but also giving people sometimes second, sometimes a third chance to change their lives," she said.
Aside from the people who should never be released, there are others who can go on to lead productive lives, Hurley told members of the council.
Hurley, currently a hearing examiner at the Parole Board, applied for a position on the board once before during the Romney administration, but was rejected 5 to 0 by the council. At the time, some on the council said the seven-member board was lopsided with members possessing prosecutorial or correctional backgrounds.
During the hearing, Councilor Marilyn Devaney, the only current council member present on Wednesday who interviewed Hurley in 2003, said the council at the time felt there needed to be more "independent thinkers" and not candidates who were already part of the system.
"I'm here today with an open mind," she added. "It's a new day."
Hurley said during her first interview more than 10 years ago there were also some suggestions made that the board needed more people with experiencing working with convicted offenders trying to rehabilitate their lives. Shortly after her nomination was rejected, Hurley said she took the council's advice and began to develop a women offenders program. At that time, women who were non-violent, low-risk offenders were not getting a lot of support services, she said.
Hurley, a Cohasset resident, was nominated by Patrick to serve on the board for a term that expires this June. If confirmed, she would succeed Cesar Archilla, who was recently appointed as a circuit district court judge in Essex County, but would need to be re-nominated for a full five-year term.
Councilors said they expected to vote on Hurley's nomination next week.
Since she was a college intern, Hurley has spent her career in public safety roles and prisoner re-entry programs. Along with creating the re-entry program for women prisoners, she previously worked as a parole officer. She received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University and a master's degree in public affairs from the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts.
Councilor Robert Jubinville said he thinks Hurley is a "wonderful" nominee because of her breath of experience in parole, and because she is not a lawyer.
"You are not a lawyer, for me that's a good thing," said Jubinville, who is a criminal defense attorney. "I have been somewhat critical of the amount of lawyers on the Parole Board, and the (parole) numbers being so low post-Cinnelli."
Jubinville was referring to the drop in parole rates following the murder of Woburn Police Officer Jack Maguire during a department store robbery in December 2010 by paroled career criminal Dominic Cinelli. Cinelli's release was highly criticized as a failing of the Parole Board, and Patrick fired five board members for their role.
Several council members questioned Hurley about the Cinelli case, asking what has changed in the board's operations since then that would prevent a similar tragedy. Hurley said the board instituted a risk assessment test that looks at several factors in determining someone's likelihood of reoffending.
Councilor Jennie Caissie characterized the Cinelli case as transformative for the parole board. She called the decision to release Cinelli a "calamity of errors," because he was a repeat felon who violated his parole and wasn't properly supervised. "Put it all together and you say 'Wow, this system is in need of some serious reforms," she said.
Council members asked Hurley if she ever interviewed Cinelli in a parole revocation hearing. She did not handle the case, she said.
Hurley said the Parole Board learned a lot from the Cinelli case.
"I think it is a reminder that this work is tough, that you can never be complacent because we are dealing with human lives here, and the last thing you want to see happen is for someone to get hurt," she said.
Lee J. Gartenburg, director of inmate legal services for the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, said the council would be hard-pressed to find a candidate with better experience and historical knowledge that would be able to step into the role and immediately make an impact.
Gartenburg pointed out that the board will now be faced with making decisions about juveniles serving life sentences, in light of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling in December that struck down life sentences for juvenile offenders, including those convicted of homicide. In a controversial decision, the state's highest court pointed to scientific research that lifelong imprisonment for youths is cruel and unusual because their brains are "not fully developed."
Hurley has the expertise the board will need to handle these cases, having spent three years working for the Department of Youth Services, Gartenburg said.
The board is gearing up to hold hearings for 44 inmates who would become eligible for parole in light of the SJC decision, according to Hurley.
Jubinville said one of his clients appeared before Hurley for a hearing. He described her as stern, yet compassionate. "You are the best hearing examiner I have ever seen," he said. "It is going to be my extreme pleasure voting for you."
Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he received several phone calls of support for Hurley, and the council received many letters of recommendation, including one from Parole Board Chair Joshua Wall, and Attorney Patricia Garin, a criminal defense attorney and co-director of the Northeastern University Law School Prisoners Assistance Program.
"It seems to be across the board unanimous that you are a great pick for this job," Kennedy said. "The previous council, I think they may have missed out on an opportunity."