Approximately 95 percentof the offenders sent to prison will eventually return to the community.
Somewill be released early with parole, some of them for time served or goodbehavior, and some will be released on the turnover of a wrongful conviction. Someoffenders have luck on their side and will be placed on probation, a form ofconditional release. Probation has been part of the criminal justice system fora long time and is found in every state. However, probation has not been assuccessful as it was originally hoped to be. Approximately one-third ofoffenders placed on probation will be back in prison or will fail to show attheir probation appointment putting them in a position for their probation tobe revoked. An offender on probation “lives outside a prison’s wallsbut is technically and legally under the control of the government, subject tonumerous restrictions and to the supervision of a probation officer and thesentencing court.” (Larkin) While on probation an offender must not commit anyother crimes, must have and keep a job, must pay any fines and restitution, andmust meet with his probation officer monthly.
If any of these conditions areviolated, the probation officer can revoke probation. The idea is that aprobationer, out of fear for being sent back to prison would comply with theconditions. Probation officers are often carrying heavy caseloads,and the work to establish a case for revocation is time consuming, this oftenleads to probation officers letting offenders get away with multiple offenses. “Forexample, Probationers who do not show up for monthly meetings can be arrested,but local police departments treat bench warrants as a very low priority”(Larkin). “Steven Alm, a state court judge in Honolulu, Hawaii,devised a novel approach to probation accountability” (Larkin) The HOPE (HawaiiOpportunity Probation with Enforcement) project has immediate consequences.
Judge Alm concluded that like young children, people respond better to swift,certain, and consistent punishment. Too often judges were giving offendersorders but they were not given any consequences for when the orders were notfollowed. Many offenders began to see the judges handing down idle threats.They knew that is was going to take dozens of warnings before anything wouldhappen.
Judge Alm believed that immediate punishment was theanswer, disruption to their lives was going to get their attention and makethem follow through. The HOPE project was simple, offenders were given conditionsof their probation and if these conditions were not met, Judge Alm would havethem back in court immediately. Methamphetamineuse is connected to many of the crimes in Hawaii so Judge Alm used a smallgroup, 34 people, that were convicted of non-violent drug crimes for his first HOPEproject.
Offenders were assigned a color and a number, and required to call ahotline every morning. If your color and number was picked, you had to submitto a drug test by 2:00pm the same day. Those testing positive for drug use weregiven an immediate sentence in jail for a few days up to one week. Alm feltthat the swift punishment would disrupt their lives enough to be a deterrent. Almalso believed in offenders taking accountability for their actions. If anoffender missed an appointment with his or her probation officer, an immediatejail sentence was given but if the offender took responsibility, it would beonly a few days in jail. TheHOPE project has been successful.
According to the report the NationalInstitute of Justice conducted five years after the start of HOPE offenders are55% less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 53% less likely to haveprobation revoked, 48% fewer days in prison, 61% less likely to skip appointmentwith their probation officers and 72% less likely to use drugs. The success ofHOPE caught the attention of others and 17 other states have modeled probationprograms after HOPE. “Swift and certain” punishment for violatingterms of probation sends a consistent message to probationers about personalresponsibility and accountability.