Innovative justice program spurs similar models across the U.S.

BY Tracy Wholf  November 24, 2013 at 5:40 PM EST

Honolulu police car

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, the United States sent 1,571,013 people to state or federal prison in 2012.

Looking for ways to save money, many states look for alternative policies to continue to supervise convicts, without sending them to prison.

That’s why the probation program “H.O.P.E. – Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement” has attracted a great deal of attention over the past few years.

NewsHour Weekend traveled to Honolulu to learn about the program, which has been shown to reduce a probationer’s likelihood to use drugs, to skip appointments with supervisors, and to reduce the chance of being arrested for new crimes.

H.O.P.E. is based on a philosophy of “swift and certain consequences.” Unlike regular probation programs where dozens of violations may go without punishment, if probationers in H.O.P.E. skip a drug test or meeting with their supervisor, they will be sent to jail for a few days immediately.

If violations continue — longer jail stays are imposed.

H.O.P.E. began in Honolulu in 2004, and because of its success, 17 other states have followed suit, implementing H.O.P.E.-style probation programs in their own jurisdictions. (See the interactive graphic above for more details).

Most states are testing these systems in individual courtrooms, but Washington, Arizona and Kansas have rolled out models across the state. Generally the judge has the power to impose immediate jail sentences, but Kansas recently passed a law giving probation officers the power to send clients to jail for two or three-day stays for violations.

And the “swift and certain” model isn’t only for adult offenders.

When Arizona took its version, “Project S.A.F.E.,” statewide, it tasked each county with identifying a population that would be best served by the model — and Maricopa County applied it to high-risk juvenile offenders tried in adult court.

H.O.P.E. has been tested as both a probation and parole program in two courtrooms in California, but Washington took the extra step of putting its statewide probation and parole populations on its H.O.P.E. program. Soon, Hawaii will expand H.O.P.E. to include pre-trial supervision cases.

Because of the program’s success, H.O.P.E. was named one of Harvard’s “Top 25 Innovations in Government” and the Department of Justice awarded a $3 million federal grant to replicate the program in four courtrooms in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas.

View NewsHour Weekend’s report on H.O.P.E. in Hawaii:


Funding for this story provided by Pacific Islanders in Communications.