Promoting judicial remarks that might serve as informal recommendation letters
Learning from the HOPE program
An excellent place to start is the HOPE program in Hawaii. It was given international attention by Australian Lorana Bartels who visited Hawaii, observed hearings held on probation cases there, and concluded that the HOPE program, which in its language appears to be a strict deterrence program (swift, certain, and fair sanctions) is in actual practice, given the behavior of its founding judge, guided by TJ features. This all likely explains the success of the program in Hawaii!
Lorana Bartels suggested several ways that the program was conducted in a TJ-way. One example lies in the ‘Warning Hearings’, where new probationers are told in clear terms what is expected of them and what the consequences are for non-compliance. The judge noted he gave these warning notices to the group as a whole, obviously to save time, but also so all would know they are being treated exactly in the same way; no special treatment here. Another technique often taken advantage of here is a provision in the general state law allowing, in special instances, the ‘Early Termination of Probation’. The judge noted he awarded this much more than would be the case in the average state probation cases probation. The Early Termination cases are conducted in a somewhat celebratory manner, and on occasion the judge would quote from the impressive remarks made to him by the probation officer. These sorts of judicial statements might indeed be used by the probationer and shared with others – potentially employers, landlords, and the like, where they may in practice serve the function of informal reference letters. If judges and probation officers are given examples of the types of talents, skills, accomplishments of likely interest to persons beyond the probationer and his/her family, we can expect to see an improvement in the usability of judicial remarks and their inclusion of relevant statements by probation officers.