The preliminary findings of the HOPE Demonstration Field Experiment have been published in a journal issue with results of SCF evaluations in Washington State (Swift and Certain) and Delaware (Decide Your Time) and comments on all the studies. The HOPE DFE findings are being widely reported on, with implications for SCF implementations. The SCF Resource Center emphasizes that each study should be understood in the context of the particular implementation design and local circumstances. The Center works with SCF practitioners to make community corrections swifter, more certain, and more fair, in their jurisdictions and agencies, based on their circumstances.

Hawaii’s HOPE Program Gets a Critical Review

Two of the most widely lauded programs by criminal justice experts and policymakers for their alleged ability to reduce recidivism have received skeptical assessments.

A [study] in Criminology & Public Policy concludes that neither [sic] Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (Hawaii HOPE) program, and the Swift, Certain and Fair (SCF) model of supervision were not associated with significant reductions in arrests, compared to standard probation programs.

In the study, “Outcome Findings from the HOPE Demonstration Field Experiment,” the authors randomly assigned more than 1,500 probationers to normal probation supervision or to a program modeled on HOPE, called the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, that emphasizes close monitoring, frequent drug testing, and swift and certain punishment for probation violations. They found no real difference in outcomes.

Based on their experiment, the authors conclude that HOPE/SCF “seems unlikely to offer better outcomes and lower costs for broad classes of moderate-to-high-risk probationers.”

[N.b. This brief account confuses HOPE and SCF, and what was implemented and evaluated. Another brief account has the lead author concluding: “The study does suggest that supervision practices that enforce strict compliance with the conditions of supervision can be successfully implemented, holding probationers accountable for their actions…. Additional work is needed to determine if the HOPE model is effective for specific types of probationers or if it can be modified to produce favorable recidivism outcomes and reduce overall probation costs.” See discussion.]

Hawaii’s Probation Program Is Often Copied, But Does It Work?

The father of HOPE disagrees.

Former Hawaii 1st Circuit Court Judge Steve Alm said HOPE has had critics since he implemented it in his courtroom in 2004.

“Usually they are academics who don’t really understand HOPE or the probation system itself and how the current system is failing many people,” said Alm, who now works as a consultant in Washington, D.C., on HOPE-type projects. “They tend to think any jail time is harsh. What they fail to see is that many probationers are currently failing at probation-as-usual and going to prison for years. That is harsh.”

When it’s done right, Steve Alm says HOPE reduces crime, helps offenders and saves taxpayers money. Alm said that when the HOPE model is employed properly—as, he argued, it has been in Hawaii, Washington, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan and other states—it reduces crime, helps offenders and their families by avoiding long prison terms and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

When the program is not executed correctly—say, focusing too much on sanctioning probationers instead of on effective probation officers and treatment providers “all in a caring and supportive atmosphere, it quite naturally is not going to work,” he said.

Alm concluded, “Given the fact that we know HOPE works well in some places, and apparently, when not done right, not in others, the challenge for the future is to help as many jurisdictions as possible to get it right.”

But HOPE has not been universally embraced, and its critics include Keith Kaneshiro, the Honolulu city prosecutor.

“The study’s findings come as no surprise and reflect what we have long seen in Hawaii,” Kaneshiro said. “Here, HOPE probationers violate conditions of supervision repeatedly and yet are placed back on probation—and remain on the street—instead of being sent to prison.”

In his view, HOPE compromises public safety.

“Every week, we see more and more HOPE probationers sought on bench warrants listed among Hawaii’s most wanted, which creates added expense and diverts law enforcement resources,” he said. “Tragically, we have also seen several of these HOPE probationers commit violent crimes, including sexual offenses and murder.”

Study Questions Benefits of Random Drug Testing for South Dakota Probation

South Dakota officials said they’ve seen success with 24/7 [sic] HOPE program.

“Every additional resource I can have available as a judge to help me make these people succeed on probation and keep my community safe, I’m in favor of,” Myren said last month.

Talks among state and judicial officials continue as they decide whether to expand the program to other circuits in South Dakota.

New Study Calls Colorado Parole Reforms into Question

Complete Colorado asked the DOC the following two questions by email:

  1. Does this change DOC’s faith in the effectiveness of “Sure and Swift” policies?
  2. Has DOC upper management studied the report, and can you summarize thoughts from someone like Director (Rick) Raemisch or Parole Director (Melissa) Roberts?

The response from the DOC did not answer either of the questions in any meaningful way. DOC spokeswoman Laurie Kilpatrick said by email, “The Colorado Department of Corrections’ program, along with several states across the nation utilized the philosophy of the H.O.P.E. program.  The model we implemented was created by Colorado, for Colorado and is one of many tools we use for intermediate sanctions.”

Desistance Mandates Compared with Treatment Mandates in Criminal Justice Populations

Mark A. R. Kleiman, Beau Kilmer, and Angela Hawken

In a growing number of programs, including HOPE (primarily methamphetamine-using property criminals in Hawai’i) and 24/7 Sobriety (primarily drunk drivers in South Dakota), large proportions of people with criminal-justice problems linked to their substance use proved capable of such desistance, mainly without entering formal treatment. Desistance-mandate programs must be adapted to local institutions and conditions; a recent set of field trials attempting rigid replication of an earlier version of the HOPE model, without such site adaptation (and without a trial-and-error process of program refinement), produced unimpressive results.

In successful programs of this type the rules are explained clearly in an atmosphere of respect and goodwill, substance use is monitored closely (with either frequently scheduled or randomized testing), and the responses to continued use are swift, certain, and modest rather than slow, sporadic, and severe. …

While the response to a violation in 24/7 Sobriety and some other desistance-mandate programs is a brief stay in jail, that is not logically necessary, and may not be practically necessary where non-incarcerative responses are available. Determining the ‘minimum effective dose’ of sanction necessary to deter consumption remains a critical research question, and there are now several pilots underway; the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is a national leader in experimenting with responses short of incarceration.