BOSTON (AP) — Prisoners' rights advocates are asking Gov. Deval Patrick to postpone a final appointment to the state parole board and consider someone with experience treating drug offenders.

Advocate groups including the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Prisoners' Legal Services and the Association for Behavioral Health also asked the administration to redefine the qualifications for the post. They also called for a new process on screening applicants.

"We ask the governor's office to ensure that the process of filling the vacancy is impartial and results in a candidate who can add a new and much needed dimension of expertise to the board," the group said in a letter sent Friday.

The advocates called on the governor to repost an advertisement for the final vacant position with a request for at least five years of experience in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. About 80 percent of state prisoners have some type of substance addiction, according to state prisons officials.

"We are fully committed to appointing candidates with a broad range of expertise in a number of issues necessary to the parole board's core mission of giving each individual a fair hearing to determine his or her suitability for parole," a spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement to The Boston Globe ( ).

The board, which determines whether prisoners are eligible for parole and monitors their activity, underwent an overhaul in early 2011 following the fatal shooting of Woburn police Officer John Maguire.

The shooter, Dominic Cinelli, who had just robbed a jewelry store, was killed in the exchange of gunfire. Authorities later determined that the parole board failed to follow basic protocol in granting parole for Cinelli, a career criminal who had been sentenced to three life sentences.

The five board members who voted for Cinelli's parole resigned at the request of the governor. Two other members of the board have since left for unrelated reasons.


Information from: The Boston Globe,