Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement

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Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) is an intensive supervision program that aims to reduce crime and drug use while saving taxpayers' dollars spent on jail and prison costs. HOPE deals with offenders who have been identified as likely to violate the conditions of their probation or community supervision.

HOPE participants include offenders who have committed a violent crime, including sex offenders and domestic violence offenders, reaching a demographic of abusers untouched by Drug Court programs. Unlike Drug Court and other substance-abuse treatment programs, HOPE does not attempt to impose drug treatment on every participant. Under HOPE, probationers receive drug treatment only if they continue to test positive for drug use or if they request a treatment referral.

HOPE employs a warning hearing notifying offenders at the onset that detected violations will have consequences; conducts frequent and random drug tests; responds to detected violations - including failed drug tests and skipped probation meetings - with swift, certain and appropriate terms of incarceration; responds to absconding probationers with quickly enforced warrant service and sanctions; and mandates drug treatment only upon request or for those probationers who do not abstain from drug use while on the testing and sanctions regimen.[1]

HOPE model[edit]

The HOPE model was started by Hawaii State Judiciary First Circuit Court Judge Steven Alm in an effort to address what he viewed as a farcical probation system.[2] It was often seen that drug-offenders would violate their probation, despite the relatively relaxed guidelines of their punishment. The punishment for violating these rules was often slow and cumbersome. To address the high rates of recidivism, Judge Steven Alm focused on delivering swift, certain and proportionate sanctions to those who failed to comply with the rules. HOPE participants received randomized and frequent drug tests throughout the duration of the program. Probationers are warned that if they test positive for drugs they will be arrested immediately, and warrants issued immediately for probationers who miss an appointment or a drug test. Those found guilty face a short stint in jail - usually starting with a few days but increasing with repeated violations.[2]

Warning Hearings[edit]

Participation in a HOPE "Warning Hearing" is the mandatory first step for a person after being recommended by his or her probation officer and being accepted by the judge.

The warning hearings take place in a group format in open court. The probationers, with their attorneys, and the prosecutor appear in person before the judge, who impresses on each probationer the importance of compliance and the certainty of consequences for noncompliance. HOPE probationers are warned that positive drug tests and/or admissions to drug and/or alcohol use will result in an immediate, on-the-spot arrest, and missing a drug test or a probation appointment will result in the immediate issuance of a bench warrant. Also, HOPE probationers are told they are expected to acknowledge when they have violated and not to abscond from the system. Absconding offenders will face harsher sanctions than those who do not run away.

During the hearing, the judge emphasizes personal responsibility and the hope of all involved that the probationer succeed.

Drug Testing Hotline[edit]

The Drug Testing Hotline is one of the major components of the HOPE Program. Probationers are required to call the hotline recording every weekday of their probation and listen for the randomly selected colors of the day. Colors are assigned to probationers for privacy and efficiency reasons, and are reassigned as probationers progress in the program and their colors are called less frequently.

Probationers whose colors are named in the recording are required to report to the downtown Honolulu courthouse the same day for drug testing between 6:30AM and 2:30PM HST. The hotline is refreshed each day of the work week at 4:00AM HST.

During the first two months of HOPE, a probationer's color is called six times a month, becoming less frequent as the program continues and dwindling to a minimum of once a month. Exceptions for weekdays in which the hotline is not in service are state holidays.

To induce probationers to appear for testing even when they know their drug test will be positive, HOPE provides for more severe sanctions for those who abscond than for those who test dirty but admit and turn themselves in. To make the threat effective, law enforcement officers are available to promptly arrest those who failed to appear.

HOPE Probation Modification Hearings[edit]

A HOPE probation modification hearing is held shortly after a probationer has been arrested for violating the terms and conditions of his or her probation, often within two working days. High bail is set, and the probationer is usually confined in the interim.

A probationer found to have violated the terms of probation is immediately sentenced to a short jail stay (typically several days servable on the weekend if employed, but increasing with continued non-compliance), with credit given for time served.

The probationer resumes participation in HOPE and reports to his or her probation officers on the day of release.

Unlike a probation revocation, a modification order does not sever the probation relationship.

A probationer may request a treatment referral at any time, but probationers with multiple violations are mandated to intensive substance abuse treatment services (typically residential care). The court continues to supervise the probationer throughout the treatment experience and the probationer is still subject to court-ordered sanctions for noncompliance.

HOPE history[edit]

The HOPE program was launched in 2004 by Judge Steven Alm, currently a First Circuit Judge, in an effort to reduce probation violations by high risk offenders.[2]

Alm's inspiration stemmed from a mid-1990s presentation by David M. Kennedy about an intensely supervisional deterrence program for Boston youth gangs, called Operation Ceasefire.[3]

Mirroring the supervision aspect of Operation Ceasefire, Alm created HOPE Probation. The first HOPE Probation hearings, held October 1, 2004, had 18 sex offenders and 16 drug offenders.[3]

HOPE program results[edit]

About 15% of HOPE probationers complete the program—which can last up to six years—without substance abuse treatment. In a 12-month follow-up study, 61% of HOPE probationers had zero positive drug tests, 20% had one positive drug test, 9% had two, 5% had three, and less than 5% had four or more.[4]

A randomized controlled study compared probationers assigned to HOPE (n = 330) to individuals assigned to regular probation (n = 163). After one year, HOPE probationers were 55% less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 72% less likely to use drugs, 61% less likely to miss appointments with their supervisory officers, and 53% less likely to have their probation revoked than those on regular probation. HOPE participants were sentenced on average to 48% fewer days of prison than regular probationers.[5]

When offenders are placed on Probation in Hawaii rather than being sent to prison, the probation period is now typically for 4 years. The court, pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Sec. 706-624(2)(a), can impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years in Class A felony cases, eighteen months in Class B felony cases, and one year in Class C felony cases.

If a court at any point revokes probation under HRS 706-625, the judge may impose on the defendant any sentence that might have been imposed originally for the crime of which the defendant was convicted. A person who is convicted of a Class A felony is subject to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of twenty years. A person sentenced to prison for a Class B felony is subject to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of ten years. A person sentenced to prison for a Class C felony is subject to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of five years.

HOPE Probation requires close coordination among many different criminal justice system agencies. It requires the criminal justice professionals to work smarter and faster. Change is always hard.

Issues about HOPE program[edit]

A recent study has raised many issues about HOPE probation.[6] In particular that study refers to the evidences of HOPE effectiveness brought by Hawkens and Kleiman as limited, while those are the main references used in this document. It identifies seven issues about the HOPE project:

1. An Over-Emphasis on a Potentially Weak Key Ingredient:

2. An Under-Emphasis on Active Ingredients

3. Failure to Identify Alternative Explanations for HOPE's Effectiveness

4. Over-Selling the Promise of Applicability for Other Jurisdictions

5. Delivering an Intervention That May be Inappropriate for Some Offenders

6. Focusing on Something That Might Not Matter

7. Opening a Pandora's Box through Punishment-Oriented Probation

In developing these seven points, the authors have made the following arguments among others:

a - "Notably, research also suggests that compared with leniency, harsher sanctions for technical violations, such as confinement, may actually be criminogenic (Clear, Harris, & Baird, 1992; Drake & Aos, 2012)."

b - "Although Hawaii's HOPE program includes a variety of offenders (sex, property, assault), its evaluation studies have only been performed on drug-involved offender."

c - "James Finckenauer (1982) has used the term "panacea phenomenon" to describe initiatives that, with very little criminological or empirical scrutiny, arise, are quickly embraced, and are imposed on the wayward with very little understanding of their true impact."

d - "HOPE was designed to use revocation as a punishment of the last, rather than first, resort."

Issues about HOPE probation have already been raised prior to that study: non violent HOPE probationers have turned into murderers.[7] Furthermore, the HOPE probation program has also been criticized by persons well positioned to directly evaluate it in the State of Hawaii. [8]

HOPE probation started around 2004 in the State of Hawaii. However no statistics for other classes of offenders under HOPE probation (sex, property, assault) than drug-related offenders from that State have ever been studied.

When prison terms are given to avoid revocation they should remain within the legal boundaries (defined by Hawaii Revised Statute (HRS) 706-624-(2)-(a) in the State of Hawaii).

The results reported in the previous section rely heavily on the work of Hawkens and Kleiman, who are not criminologists, but faculty members of a School of Public Policy. Hawkens' graduate program ranks 87-th among the Graduate programs of US schools of public policy. [9]


  1. ^ Kleiman, Mark A.R. (July–August 2009). "Jail Break". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 6 January 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Wood, Graeme (September 2010). "Prison Without Walls". The Atlantic.
  3. ^ a b Rosen, Jeffrey (January 10, 2010). "Prisoners of Parole". New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  4. ^ Hawken, Angela. Kleiman, Mark. Managing Drug Involved Probationers With Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii's HOPE Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, 2009.
  5. ^ Hawken, Angela. Kleiman, Mark. Managing Drug Involved Probationers With Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii's HOPE Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice; 2009.
  6. ^ http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/FederalCourts/PPS/Fedprob/2014-09/hope.html
  7. ^ "Failures tarnish Hawaii program to rehabilitate offenders - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper". the.honoluluadvertiser.com.
  8. ^ "Honolulu Prosecutor Sharply Criticizes HOPE Probation Program - Hawaii Reporter". 14 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Search: Graduate Schools & Programs - US News Education".

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