The influential HOPE probation program is misnamed


THElast month a woman won $ 7 million in federal court in Hawaii against the state’s Department of Public Safety, its former manager Nolan Espinda and Honolulu Deputy Sheriff Freddie Carabbacan. She accused Carabbacan, whose behavior had come under scrutiny in the past, of sexual assault when she was held at the local jail. According to her testimony, she had said to her fellow inmates: “Who would believe me? I am an addict.

Far from being in prison for committing a serious crime, she was there because of a violation of probation as part of Hawaii’s probation opportunity program with application, or HOPE probation for short.

Steve Alm, a former judge who is now the elected supreme attorney for Honolulu County, Hawaii, invented HOPE Probation in 2004. He explained in 2015 that his philosophy sees probation and parole as the education of children. “You tell your child you care, but families have rules,” he said. noted. “Any misconduct results in a prompt, certain, consistent and proportionate response. “

Since 2014, the federal government has Posted nearly $ 15 million to more than 30 states to develop similar programs. In last years, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections both sought to bring HOPE to their States. It has even been the subject of debate in parliamentary bodies in Australia.

The Hawaii State Judicial Website Explain that HOPE Probation seeks to impose “swift, predictable and immediate penalties, typically resulting in several days in jail, for each violation detected, such as drug use detected or missed appointments with a probation officer.”

HOPE is different from other forensic oversight programs. The typical setup of probation involves a probation officer watching for behavioral errors and reporting to a judge if someone significantly violates the conditions. By the time the judge hears the violation, it may have taken weeks or months. A stay in prison measured in weeks or months is a frequent result.

Keeping people who use drugs in a long-term limbo between prison and freedom seems decidedly “crime-hard”.

HOPE prioritizes increased surveillance and faster, but less severe consequences. In theory, this gives people a better chance of remaining free in the community for the longer term, rather than threatening long-term incarceration for small technical violations. On the other hand, a person on HOPE probation is even less free than a person on normal probation. Being formally cited and brought to justice for a violation is not like lightning, rare but devastating. The rotation between prison and the outside world is more like a certainty, unless someone is able to adapt his behavior all at once.

Keeping people who use drugs in a long-term limbo between prison and freedom seems decidedly “crime-hard”. Yet the program has been adopted by some supporters of criminal justice reform. The American Constitutional Society, a “Leading progressive legal organization”, postulated in 2009 that HOPE probation could be part of the solution to mass incarceration. First liberal magazine Slate ran a item in 2013 with the dubious caption “Quick and Sure Punishment Reduces Crime. Parolees love it.

Alm wrote in a 2015 Minnesota Law Review item that HOPE Probation is part of its two-part strategy to “Make court-ordered community surveillance more effective”. The other is to expand drug courts and shift their focus to a “high risk probation population”.

Similar to drug courts themselves, HOPE Probation appears to fail probationers, while also relying on the fallacious concept that drug criminalization is necessary in the first place. When the program is implemented, resources that might otherwise be allocated to drug treatment programs and other services end up moving to zero tolerance.

Jesse Zortman, a forensic psychotherapist in Pennsylvania, has spent years interviewing men who have been assigned to HOPE probation in Pennsylvania. He didn’t find that they “liked” it.

“HOPE is a paradigm based on deterrence,” he said Filtered. “Unfortunately, this correctional model ignores empirically known causes of recidivism, emphasizing certainty of punishment over treatment. Simply put, rehabilitation is not the point.

“Of course, you could get some compliance in the short term”, He continued. “But when you ignore over 40 years of criminological research and don’t deal with things like anti-social attitudes and cognitions, those underlying factors will continue to develop and lead the individual to future crime.” Much like programs such as “frightened directly”, specific deterrence simply does not work. “

Zortman also pointed out an assessment of HOPE Probation published in Federal Probation magazine. This predicted that “when the courts exhaust their capacity to improve speed and certainty, they will seek to reduce violations and recidivism with the only element of punishment remaining in their arsenal: severity”.

A different result than that of the study by the Department of Justice perhaps shows the true objective of the program: abstinence from medications.

Other evidence suggests that HOPE is not succeeding even according to the framing of its architects. When the Ministry of Justice encouraged the implementation of HOPE through grants in four pilot counties in 2012, under the name Honest Probation of Opportunity with Execution, researchers find that “HOPE probationers had a statistically higher number of probation violations” compared to control group probationers. On this basis, the CrimeSolutions portal of the National Institute of Justice evaluates HOPE “no effect. “

A different result than that of the study by the Department of Justice perhaps shows the true objective of the program: abstinence from drugs, including alcohol, and regardless of whether this is obtained in a coercive manner. HOPE probationers had “Statistically significantly lower the chances of a positive drug test. “

In his native context in Hawaii, the first promoter of HOPE, Mark AR Kleiman previously counted an increase in abstinence as part of its success. Despite his lukewarm opposition in the war on drugs, Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles before his death in 2019, still has believed that “DARE is a great tool for police-community relations, especially in poor neighborhoods”.

None of the objections to HOPE dampened Alm’s popularity in a state that almost always democratic votes.

After allegations against Alm’s predecessor as Honolulu’s attorney general, Keith Kaneshiro, tarnished public confidence in the office — Kaneshiro is subject to ongoing FBI corruption investigation“Alm has taken it upon himself to leave retirement and run for the siege.

His victory could just as easily have been foreordained. He won first place in the two non-partisan primaries in August 2020 by a landslide, then sent Megan Kau by 11 percentage points in the November general election. Jacquie Esser, a progressive candidate in the mold of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who received support from national social justice icon Shaun King, received less than 20% of the vote in the primary, placing third.

The program itself, which some local elected officials can not imagine doing without, remains intact despite concerns. In 2018, the Hawaii legislature Prison Reform Working Group advised that “the state stops using incarceration to punish HOPE probation violators” despite short stays in prison for all probation violations being the goal of the program. It does not appear that this recommendation has become law, as other recent bills in Hawaii seek to develop HOPE further.

Hawaii leads the country in terms of the length of probation periods, lasting an average of 59 months.

Meanwhile, local leaders said Filtered on how Steve Alm approaches his current role. Nikos Leverenz of the Hawai’i Health & Harm Reduction Center and Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons have sounded the alarm bells about his support for the “Weed and Seed” program, an earlier iteration he oversaw during his tenure as U.S. District Attorney for Hawaii under the Clinton administration.

Weed and Seed is believed to strategically use law enforcement resources to flush out criminal activity in specific neighborhoods and then replace it with community development initiatives.

Leverenz said what the Alm’s Weed and Seed program really constitutes are “dozens of arrests for drug possession and sending homeless people elsewhere.” Arrests for drug possession then lead to inflated probation conditions; Hawaii leads the country in terms of the length of probation periods, lasting an average of 59 months. Brady said that “prosecutors and courts just send people, who are struggling to survive, to the petri dish [of COVID-19 in the local jail]. “

Ultimately, Alm’s legacy appears to be the creation of a “prison without walls”For people who use drugs, a harmful substance and increasingly archaic strategy as big cities across the country move away from criminalization and towards a public health approach.


Photograph by Boyce Duprey via Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0


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