In January 2020, Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) received a final program rating of No Effects based on review of Lattimore and colleagues (2016) that focused only on measures of recidivism. In February 2021, CrimeSolutions conducted a re-review of the full study by Lattimore and colleagues (2018), examining measures of recidivism (any arrest charge, new convictions, and any probation violations), and measures of substance misuse (drug test results). The program maintained a final rating of No Effects.
In the early 2000s, the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program was implemented and widely touted as successful in reducing drug use, violations, and reincarceration among drug-involved probationers. This program was overseen by a judge who conducted warning hearings advising participants that they would be required to strictly adhere to supervision requirements, including drug testing, and warned that all violations would be followed by hearings and jail sanctions. Substance abuse treatment was reserved for those who repeatedly failed random drug tests, and revocation was only for those who repeatedly violated conditions. Given promising findings in Hawaii, the National Institute of Justice in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded the Honest Opportunity Probation With Enforcement Demonstration Field Experiment (HOPE DFE) that included funding for four competitively selected sites to implement HOPE, technical assistance to assure implementation fidelity, and an evaluation that included random assignment to either HOPE or probation as usual (PAU).
The Honest Opportunity Probation With Enforcement (HOPE) Demonstration Field Experiment (DFE) is one of very few multi-site, multi-method randomized control trial evaluations that have been conducted to assess the impact of highly specified probation practices on probation outcomes. Conducted between 2012 and 2017, the HOPE DFE collected extensive data on nearly 1600 individuals in four sites who were randomly assigned to either HOPE supervision or probation as usual (PAU). Findings from the DFE evaluation suggest that the HOPE program model was implemented with fidelity in the four sites. Outcomes were less favorable than in the earlier Hawaii study—HOPE probationers had many more violations that PAU probationers, recidivism outcomes were similar between the two groups, and HOPE costs were higher because of more jail days and more treatment days for those in the HOPE groups that were not offset by fewer prison days. HOPE probationers were less likely to test positive on oral swab drug tests conducted in conjunction with follow-up interviews. Interestingly, these findings have not dimmed the enthusiasm for HOPE (or Swift, Certain, and Fair—SCF—probation programs). As results from the DFE showed little improvement in recidivism outcomes over standard practice, ongoing endorsement of the HOPE approach should be based on other considerations such as a fairer and more predictable system or increased probationer accountability.
A rigorous NIJ-sponsored multi-site randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluation of a popular probation reform model underscored the value of scientific reexamination of existing methods. The original reform program, pioneered in Hawaii called Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE)., was designed to use swift, certain, and fair sanctioning for even relatively minor probation violations, in order to keep individuals on probation in line, drug-free, and out of prison. The 2009 single-site RCT funded by NIJ found, after one year, that the treatment group was less likely to be arrested for a new crime, less likely to use drugs, and less likely to have their probation revoked than those on regular probation. Eventually, 28 states, one Indian nation and one Canadian province adopted a form of the model. The approach seemed to have a lot of promise, but the question remained – can the results be replicated?
So NIJ funded a multi-site RCT, called the HOPE Demonstration Field Experiment (DFE), that attempted to replicate the original HOPE effects in four locations in the states of Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas. Overall, this large-scale study found that the HOPE model was not associated with significant reductions in arrests and was unlikely to yield cost savings. The HOPE DFE clearly established that the model was no more effective than conventional probation programs in terms of rates of re-arrest, re-conviction, and revocation of probation. Other jurisdictions will now have the benefit of that evaluation when deciding whether or how to reform their own probation system policies and practices.
[3, 4] Angela Hawken and Mark Kleiman, “Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2007-IJ-CX-0033, December 2009, NCJ 229023, ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/229023.pdf.
[5, 6] Pamela K. Lattimore, Debbie Dawes, Doris L. MacKenzie, and Gary Zajac, “Evaluation of the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Demonstration Field Experiment (HOPE DFE), Final Report,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, June 2018, NCJ 251758, ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251758.pdf.
This article examines how the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program was received by probationers in the context of a large-scale replication and evaluation trial. The HOPE DFE found mostly null effects from HOPE, begging the question of why this popular intervention failed to deliver desired results. Computer assisted interviews with nearly 1,000 HOPE and control probationers and open ended in-person interviews with 21 HOPE probationers suggest that HOPE may have been better received by probationers who were less entrenched in criminal thinking and attitudes and who were more motivated to avoid ongoing consequences of antisocial behavior. HOPE may have struggled with probationers who were indifferent to or dismissive of the rigid sanctioning strategy delivered by HOPE.
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 74 accessing drug treatment likely shapes the undue hope that is placed in these programs, though this hypothesis should be rigorously examined in further research.
Hawaii’s Project Hope: Project Hope was touted as a wonderfully effective program for supervising offenders in the community. A study in Criminology & Public Policy concludes that neither Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (Hawaii HOPE) program, nor the Swift, Certain and Fair (SCF) model of supervision achieved significant reductions in re-arrests of “moderate to high-risk probationers,” 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. See Project Hope.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm joins host Coralie Chun Matayoshi to discuss what factors are taken into account in sentencing, the different types of sentences including victim restitution, whether a judge needs to accept a plea bargain, how no contest pleas can give first time offenders a second chance, what happens if you violate probation, how prisoners can get early release on parole, and innovative programs like Drug Court and Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program which Alm helped create.
Cheryl Inouye, who has worked for decades as a probation officer and supervisor, is serving as Alm’s senior adviser. She worked with Alm to establish his Hope Probation program in which probationers receive what the judiciary calls “swift, predictable, and immediate” sanctions for violations. While studies have shown mixed results, Alm continues to swear by it.