Hawaiʻi HOPE news
Federal jury awards $7M to woman assaulted in court cellblock: The Hawaii deputy sheriff accused of assault maintains he did nothing wrong.
A federal jury awarded $7 million in damages to a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a deputy sheriff in a First Circuit Court cellblock in Honolulu in 2014.
Elizabeth Mueller was in HOPE probation, a drug probation program, when she alleges she was assaulted during an illegal strip search by Freddie Carabbacan, a deputy sheriff who was sergeant of the courthouse cellblock at the time.
On June 17, 2014, Seleena Kumia was one of those detainees Carabbacan searched.
Kumia was in the HOPE probation program, a drug-probation program championed by Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm, who at the time was a Circuit Court judge.
Kumia went to court that day in a blue painter’s suit, with only her underwear underneath. She testified that Alm gave her a four-hour pass to do a drug assessment with instructions to not go home and change her clothes.
Before going to her assessment, Kumia changed her clothes in a court bathroom with another inmate because she said she felt inappropriately dressed to go out. She went for her assessment and came back to the courthouse later in the day.
That same day, Elizabeth Mueller, another HOPE probationer, was brought into the cellblock and later searched by Carabbacan.
Like Kumia, she also received a day pass to do an assessment and was ordered to come back to the courthouse later that day.
She testified that she was picked up from the beach and wore shorts and a tank top, and so she changed clothes at a nearby church because she felt inappropriately dressed before going to her assessment.
Nicholson also concluded that the department had no written policies for how to handle HOPE probationers who go out into the public and come back into custody. That left Carabbacan on his own piecing together what to do based on several different department policies.
“In the Arbitrator’s opinion, (the department) ignored the fact that (Carabbacan’s) superiors failed to give him any guidance and left him to use his best judgement to run the cellblock. (Carabbacan) was then terminated for using his own judgement,” Nicholson wrote.
Amid spike in crime, Honolulu (HI) City Prosecutor Steve Alm seeks stricter rules for probation violators
There have to be certain consequences for misbehavior,” Alm said.
He said he believes repeat offenders who commit violent crimes need to be sent to prison.
As for those who are convicted of lower level offenses, he says probation needs to be more strict.
He said right now a lot of people are getting off too easy.
“It needs to go back to the model that was developed where there’s a jail consequence for every violation of probation. And that’s not happening now,” he said.
“Now, they test positive for drugs and they leave. They’re allowed to leave.”
Alm said he’d also like to see warrants issued immediately if someone skips a meeting with their parole officer so they can be arrested.
He said talks are underway with the Judiciary to address the issue.
Charges dropped in Honolulu (HI) attack that left man in critical condition
The 32-year-old man, Armin Baertschi, Jr., was caught on Alakea Street and arrested for attempted murder, modification of probation and several outstanding warrants.
On May 2, before the incident, Baertschi’s probation officer filed a motion to modify his probation after failing to submit a drug test in April. This comes after Baertschi missed or refused eight urine analysis tests since April 2021.
The terms of his probation order require Baertschi to submit a drug test within 30 minutes at the direction of his officer. He is also to report to his probation officer, which he failed to do in April.
Baertschi was on a four-year HOPE probation order after being found guilty of drug charges in 2019.
He has a lengthy criminal record that includes several fourth-degree thefts, criminal trespassing, and promoting dangerous drugs.
Honolulu (HI) incarcerated the wrong man for more than two years—a miscarriage of justice that shows the cruel inadequacy of America’s approach to mental health
On his first day, a psychiatrist, Anne Virnig, described a patient who seemed self-possessed, calm and lucid — “very guarded, but does not exhibit any overt signs of psychosis.” He had been taking antipsychotic medication in jail and was willing to continue. It was only then, upon entering the hospital, that he was able to learn the real reason he was arrested. The H.S.H. staff, consulting his court file, told Spriestersbach that it seemed the courts had been looking for him, based on an earlier case. In 2006, the file indicated, he was pulled over on Oahu for stealing a truck. The police searched the truck and found an open beer and a glass pipe that tested positive for cocaine. He was then apparently assigned to a drug-offender probation program called HOPE, only to violate its terms in 2007. The court issued a bench warrant in 2009, and now, eight years later, the police thought they had their man.
With no suspicion that things were amiss, the staff mingled details from Thomas Castleberry’s arrest record with Joshua Spriestersbach’s existing patient files, considering them both to be the same person. “Patient denies any history of drug use,” read one admissions note from Sept. 8, “despite his legal charges and spending time in the HOPE program.” One social worker acknowledged “no historical substance use assessment” in his record, and yet still found other aspects of his story to fit this new narrative. “Mr. Castleberry states he lives in Chinatown, and sleeps close to the bridge next to King Street and River Street, a known homeless area where substance use is present. It appears that he was paranoid, and secretive about divulging any information.” Everyone apparently overlooked the fact that not a single mention of Thomas Castleberry’s 2006 arrest could be found in Spriestersbach’s hospital records from his 2009 and 2012 admissions.
New Honolulu (HI) PD chief outlines how he’ll run agency amid officer shortage, crime spike
What’s the plan to deal with repeat offender cases?
Logan said the city is looking at this issue, and added he supports improving resources to deter recidivism.
He also expressed support for the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, which allows individuals to deal with substance abuse problems.
Linked Lives: The Effects of Incarceration on Prisoner Families in Hawai’i
In addition to drug courts, the Hawai’i Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program offers another form of local therapeutic jurisprudence (Bartels, 2018). HOPE uses “behavioral triage” to target probationers who need intensive treatment and provide swift, certain punishment to those who fail the random drug tests. Early evaluations of the HOPE program highlighted successes of the program and argued that the inclusion of family and friends in the offenders’ rehabilitation serves a therapeutic function (Bartels, 2018; Hawken & Kleiman, 2009; Johnson, 2016). However, in a special issue of Criminology & Public Policy, evaluation studies found results of HOPE programs across the country ranged from “weak to dismal” (Cullen et al., 2016, p. 1216; Nagin, 2016). For example, in a four-site study of HOPE programs in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas, HOPE probation did not reduce recidivism or prove more effective than the control groups in traditional probation (Lattimore et al., 2018). Though, HOPE participants were significantly less likely to miss a probation visit and fail to pay their fees and fines (Lattimore et al., 2018). As Cullen, Pratt, and Turanovic (2016, p. 1216) argued, with people’s lives at stake, there is a need to move beyond zero-tolerance supervision and consider alternative supervision strategies.
At the core of therapeutic jurisprudence lies the central driving idea that drug treatment can be coerced. Though criminal justice programs, like HOPE and drug courts, represent inventive efforts to address the problem of addiction and drug use for criminal offenders, criminologists should remain skeptical. The literature cautions against relying too heavily on this premise, as evaluations of the HOPE program have shown, there needs to be much more systematic review of coercive treatment programs (Cullen et al., 2016; Nagin, 2016). For the participants in this study, efforts to use coercive therapy are widely trusted and viewed positively, despite the mixed results within the literature. The lack of alternative pathways to accessing drug treatment likely shapes the undue hope that is placed in these programs, though this hypothesis should be rigorously examined in further research.
Urging the Hawaii Judiciary to Assign One Judge for the HOPE Probation Program
Whereas, several judges are currently assigned to HOPE Probation cases, which is inundating the judges’ calendars and leading to widespread and inconsistent decisions; and
Whereas, to improve consistency and ease logistics, all HOPE Probation cases should be consolidated to one judge; now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the Thirty—first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2022, that the Judiciary is urged to assign one judge for the HOPE Probation Program to ensure expedited and timely cases are heard and decided and to ensure consistency in judicial hearings and decisions.
A (Hawaii) Bill for an Act Relating to Mental Illness and Expanding HOPE
The purposes of this Act are to: (1) Establish a pilot program, expanding HOPE probation to include severely mentally impaired individuals convicted of misdemeanor offences and those of a lesser degree, court-ordered mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and other supportive services as an alternative to jail. (2) Enable offenders to have certain criminal records sealed if they successfully complete HOPE probation, and do not re-offend. This Act shall be known and may be cited as the “Help for HOPE Act” and the purpose of the Act is to establish a HOPE pilot program within the judiciary.