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HOPE Probation and the New Drug Court: A Powerful Combination

By Judge Steven S. Alm. Full text here.

Traditional felony probation programs in the United States often suffer from poor probationer compliance. In spite of dedicated and skilled probation officers using Evidence Based Principles, many probationers fail to successfully complete probation nationwide. Part of this systemic problem is an inability of Probation Officers and the Court to impose immediate consequences for probation violations because the only sanctions available to the justice system are an “all-or-nothing” revocation of probation. Determined to create a better system that would help high-risk probationers change their patterns of behavior and succeed in probation, Judge Steven S. Alm and probation supervisor Cheryl Inouye created the Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) strategy of probation supervision.

HOPE probation focuses on providing swift, certain, consistent, and proportionate jail sentences for probation violations. Compared to the delayed, inconsistent, and often unnecessarily harsh consequences in probation-as-usual, HOPE probation helps probation violators understand the direct consequences of their actions and change their own behavior. This article details the philosophy behind the HOPE program and how Hawaii was successful in reforming the probation system through HOPE to drastically reduce rates of drug use among probationers and the amount of time probationers spend in prison.

Judge Alm and Hawaii (Honolulu) Drug Court Administrator Janice Bennett worked together to redirect the focus of the Hawaii (Honolulu) Drug Court after Judge Alm also became the Drug Court judge in 2011. The Honolulu Drug Court now focuses on the higher-risk probationers (even those with violent histories) as the target population, rather than lower-risk pretrial offenders. The article describes how the two strategies, HOPE and the now-redirected Drug Court, are working together to more effectively supervise offenders in Honolulu.