Reentry Research at NIJ: Providing Robust Evidence for High-Stakes Decision-Making
Role of Sanctioning
The goal of community corrections is to ensure that individuals under community supervision comply with their conditions of supervision, do not commit new crimes, and are provided services that address their criminogenic needs to improve long-term outcomes. It is expected that missteps and minor violations will occur—reentry can be complex and nonlinear. The difficulty lies in deciding whether an individual may still be successful on a community sentence after a violation or whether the community sentence should be revoked. Many violations, by themselves, may not warrant the prison term that often results from revocation of a community sentence. If individuals accumulate multiple violations, however, officers may need to decide when it is time to call for revocation.
Hawaii created a probation model—Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE)—in which every violation resulted in a short but swift sanction that did not remove the individual from probation. The theory behind HOPE was that the sanction would be severe enough to help modify behavior and introduce accountability, but it would not be as severe as revoking the probation sentence. Individuals would experience the sanction—typically a few days in jail—shortly after the violation was detected, thus reinforcing the link between the sanction and the behavior that led to the violation. This, in turn, would help promote behavioral change among those on probation and parole.
Although initial findings suggested that the HOPE probation model was effective, an NIJ multisite demonstration on the U.S. mainland was not able to replicate the initial successes. HOPE participants were found to have fewer arrests than those on regular probation in two of the four jurisdictions, but overall there was no difference in time-to-arrest or probation revocations. Difficulties in organizational culture and communication among implementing partners, along with the model’s statutory framework, made it challenging to implement HOPE consistently across the four sites, particularly in terms of achieving a uniform definition of probation failure and a return to prison. The HOPE experience illustrates the challenges of adopting a community corrections or reentry program from another jurisdiction, even when the program has some initial indication of success.