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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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Jack Leary to Receive Walsh Award
By Rick Winterson

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Jack Leary has devoted himself to working with those who have run up against the law because of drug and alcohol abuse.  His efforts have earned him a place with other noted community activists.  He’ll receive the Walsh Award on Thursday evening, May 25, at the South Boston Collaborative “time” in the Ironworkers Hall.

     Jack Leary is reluctant to say much about Jack Leary, but that’s not false humility.  He firmly believes that South Boston is filled with good people, so he talks about them rather than about himself.

     Jack came to the South Boston District Court in 1981, making this year his 25th anniversary.  He started as a Probation Officer and is now the Assistant Chief Probation Officer.  Since approximately 80% of the cases that come through the Courthouse are substance-related, he has been very much involved with the problems that drug and alcohol abuse bring to the residents of South Boston.  As Jack says, “You learn to adapt – to be creative in dealing with the drug issues”.

     His background is varied.  Jack is the son of Helen (Crehan) and Daniel Leary; he’s the youngest of eight brothers and sisters.  His oldest brother, Jerry, is dead; the others still live in this general area.  He claims he has lost track of the number of nephews, nieces, grandnephews, and grandnieces he has.  “I have no idea how many there are”, Jack says.

     Hometown is West Roxbury, and he still lives there today.  Jack attended the Randall Morris and Shaw Schools – the latter is now the Lyndon Pilot School.  He graduated from Boston English while that was still on Louis Pasteur, before it moved to Jamaica Plain.  His B.S. is from Boston State.  After a tour of duty in Vietnam, he obtained an M.S. in Psychology and Counseling.

     He joined the Suffolk Superior Civil Court, and then worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, which Carter carried.  For five years, he was a Guidance Counselor at the Blackstone Millville Regional Junior/Senior High School.  He also administered school disciplinary policies.  Then, Jack came to South Boston.

     Jack talks about his work at the Courthouse with enthusiasm.  He credits the entire staff with the progress that has been made in South Boston, using the word “motivated” to describe his colleagues.  He recalls the judges who have relied more on recovery than on punishment – Cameron, Feeney, Concannon, and of course, Judge Ziemian, who has codified the approach to drug abuse in the drug courts.  The programs Jack works on continue to evolve – they now include physical exams and sophisticated substance tests using hair, along with lots of feedback and counseling

     But the work Jack does also includes getting offenders, particularly young ones, into recovery.  In speaking of Joe Walsh, with whom Jack worked closely, he says, “I’m happy to be continuing his work, and I’m flattered to be in his shadow”, referring to the Joe Walsh Award.  He mentions the other Walsh Award recipients and says, “Just to be associated with Joe (Curran), Scott (Lombard), and Mike (Conroy) is a privilege.”  He reflects a moment on individuals such as Darlene Sheehan, Dr. Massey, Michael Kineavy, and so many others. The lives saved and restored by all of those people, including Jack Leary himself, are beyond calculation.  They can’t be counted up.

     Jack Leary is a great South Boston booster.  He points to the programs here as being the most well-endowed of any he has seen.  They are models for the rest of the country.  The halfway houses, the South Boston Collaborative, the cooperation from unions, the Health Center, the large number of non-profits, the individual fundraisers, and so on can’t be found anywhere else.  Jack says, “ South Boston is my second home.  Maybe it’s my first, since I spend so much time here.  I’m proud to be a part of it.”

     South Boston is equally proud to have Jack Leary here.  Come to the Ironworkers Hall on Thursday, May 25, and participate in Jack Leary’s award night – it’ll be a great “time”.

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Assistant Chief Probation Officer Jack Leary on duty at teh South Boston District Courthouse.