Hawaii’s HOPE Program Gains National Recognition

A tough love approach appears to be the solution to Hawaii’s troubled probation system.

Hawaii recently enacted a program called Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), which is designed to address repeat offenders with drug and alcohol problems. HOPE has been so successful that a number of similar programs can be found throughout the country. Two local professors reported that a broad implementation of programs like HOPE could save the nation billions of dollars in incarceration expenses. But it’s not all about the cost-saving benefits; it’s about redeeming lives along the way.

It was found that many of the offenders in Hawaii had underlying drug and alcohol problems that fueled their illegal behavior. Combined with an overwhelmed system that saw many offenders habitually re-offend, only to not receive any type of meaningful help, and it was clear that Hawaii’s probation system was not helping offenders or saving money.

Harsher Consequences for the Toughest Probation Cases

The implementation of HOPE brought about a more consistent management of offenders and immediate consequences for those who violate the terms of their probation. HOPE is now capable of accommodating about 2,000 of the toughest probation cases (or about one-fourth of the total probation population in Hawaii).  Some of the terms of probationers in the HOPE program include calling a hotline every morning and following the instructions, such as getting a drug test. Probationers who are unable to keep clean are required to attend drug and alcohol abuse meetings or enroll in outpatient treatment, which many times is followed by a two-year residential program.

HOPE’s Success Story

All probationers of the HOPE program are given specific instructions as to how the program works, which includes harsher consequences for each violation of their probation. A 2009 study found that HOPE probationers were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime than probationers not in the program. They were also 72 percent less likely to use drugs and 61 percent less likely to skip appointments with their probation officers.

A probation administrator in the HOPE program notes that morale among probation officers has improved due to more accountability and better outcomes. California legislators were so impressed that California Congressman Adam B. Schiff and Texas Congressman Ted Poe introduced a bill in 2009 to establish a $25 million start-up fund to encourage other states to enact programs like HOPE.