Since we first wrote about this program in 2008, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program has not only been studied and expanded but replicated numerous times on mainland sites throughout the country. In today’s Justice Bulletin we look back at the evolution of the HOPE program and trace its success from its launch in 2004 to its current iterations across the country.
The story of the HOPE program officially began in October of 2004 when Judge Steven S. Alm gave his first formal warning to 34 probationers in open court, putting them on notice that violations under this new program would result in the swift and certain consequence of short 2-3 day jail stays. The brainchild of Alm, a former U.S. Attorney, HOPE was inspired not only by the work of renowned Criminologist David Kennedy but also by an understanding of classical deterrence theory, something that many parents understand intrinsically. In a 2009 interview for Governing Magazine, Alm said, “I thought, well, what do I do with my son? If he does something wrong I’m going to talk to him and give him a consequence right away….You have a swift and certain consequence and you follow through with it.”
It is this simple logic, that actions should be followed closely by consequences, which underpins both the original HOPE program and the increasing number of replications. Specifically, the HOPE program is designed for probationers identified as being at high risk of a probation violation. As an initiation to HOPE, probationers appear before a judge who issues a clear warning in open court that any probation violation, including a failed drug test or failure to show up for a probation appointment will result in immediate jail time. Probationers are randomly drug tested (twice monthly); if the probationer fails his Urine Analysis (UI) the individual is taken into custody and will appear in front of a judge either that day or the next. If the individual misses an appointment with his probation officer a bench warrant is issued, served, the individual is arrested and is in front of a judge within 72 hours. The average sanction is 1-3 days in jail; probationers who receive three or more violations are ordered into drug treatment. To read more about the basic components of HOPE click here.
When the initial 34 probationers started the HOPE program, Alm expected a flood of violations, but they never came. Violations went from three in the first week to two in the second week, to zero by week three. Throughout 2004, Alm worked closely with the Probation Department and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, which at the time served HOPE bench warrants (local law enforcement has since taken over the majority of these responsibilities). In 2005 the program had grown to a little over 100 probationers and thanks to its early successes, by 2006 HOPE had found advocates in the state legislature and two researchers to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. After 15 months of success, in early 2007 the Hawaii state legislature provided HOPE with its first infusion of new funding, $1.2 million (made up of a combination of state and Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds) a figure which has been matched every year since. Almost two thirds of this $1.2 million in funding goes toward intensive drug treatment that is used to help those HOPE probationers who opt into treatment or are mandated into treatment after three or more positive drug tests. This dedicated funding has allowed for the rapid expansion of HOPE from one judge at its onset to 10 at its height. With the expansion of judges, the number of probationers in HOPE ballooned from over 100 in 2005 to over 1,700 in the winter of 2011.
Coming to a Court Near You
Since the 2007 investment of state and Byrne JAG funds, HOPE has found many champions at both the state and federal levels. Much of this popularity can be attributed to the evaluation work of Angela Hawken, Ph.D. and Mark Kleiman, Ph.D. who conducted a yearlong randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the HOPE model. The results of this RCT, which were published in the article Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii's HOPE, showed that HOPE probationers were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 72 percent less likely to use drugs, 61 percent less likely to skip appointments with their supervisory officer and 53 percent less likely to have their probation revoked when compared to the control group. In total HOPE probationers spent 48 percent fewer days incarcerated than the control group. Although HOPE probationers cost probation departments more than the average probationer, the savings to the entire system come from reduced jail time, revocations, and future victimizations.
After the release of the RCT results, HOPE received a great deal of attention not only in the states but also on Capitol Hill. In 2009 Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX) sponsored H.R. 4055, this legislation if passed would have appropriated funding for new HOPE demonstration sites. HOPE has also found advocates within influential organizations like The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Council of State Governments. In a 2009 article on HOPE written by John Buntin, Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project said, “there may not be another intervention that could have a more dramatic impact on crime, drug use and prison spending.”
Both the Council of State Governments and the Public Safety Performance Project have spearheaded the Justice Reinvestment initiative that has helped states like Texas, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Arkansas and many others regain control and change the direction of escalating state correctional budgets. As part of the Justice Reinvestment approach, HOPE has not only received attention as a reinvestment strategy but has found funds for replication sites. In Arkansas for example, the state legislature has appropriated funds for five HOPE replication sites throughout the state.
Outside of Arkansas there are a number of replication sites throughout the country including the first mainland replications which took place in Alaska. There are also replications in Nevada, Oregon, California, Washington, and a number of sites in Arizona, including two replications that are focused on testing the effectiveness of HOPE with the juvenile population. Outside of simple replications the sites have also partnered with researchers like Hawken to conduct new RCT to test their effectiveness, preliminary results for some of these sites should be available at the end of June.
What makes these replications so impressive is that the states and counties have raised or reallocated their own funds to support these programs, and it is often the case that these programs get started with no additional funds at all. Other states like Virginia, Kentucky, California and Alabama are also considering the appropriateness of HOPE for their communities. In addition to the states that have already begun their own replications and those considering HOPE, the Bureau of Justice Assistance is seeking to fund four additional replications which will be evaluated with funding from the National Institute of Justice. To see the grant solicitation click here.
Although there have been other programs that sought to utilize swift and certain sanctions like Michigan’s Project Sentry, Maryland’s Break The Cycle, or Delaware’s Swift and Certain none have had the political champions, local leadership or rigorous scientific evaluations of HOPE. While HOPE as a program is not perfect, its success depends heavily on the ability of the courts, law enforcement and probation to coordinate and communicate effectively, the model has shown itself as meaningful and data driven criminal justice reform.