The state of Hawaii supported 270 probation officer jobs in 2010, which paid on average, $53,070, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hawaii currently supports a population of about 8,000 probationers so most probation officers require expert management skills to monitor their caseloads, which can top 160 probationers.
How to Become a Probation Officer in Hawaii
Hawaii’s probation system is run by the Administrative Offices of the Courts. The Administrative Offices only entertain applications from qualified candidates who possess at least one of these factors:
- Bachelor’s degree with at least 12 semester hours of social science
- Baccalaureate diploma in social work
- Baccalaureate diploma in criminal justice
- One year of post-graduate study in social work
- One year of post-graduate study in criminal justice
Applications should be submitted to the Hawaii State Judiciary along with transcripts and resumes.
Training of new probation officers is conducted through the eight field offices of the District Probation Branch. These training programs offer instruction in
- Behavioral analysis
- Drug investigations
- Case management
- HOPE processes
- Legal issues
- Constitutional law
The Success of Hawaii’s HOPE Program
In response to a growing drug problem in the state, Hawaii instituted the Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program in 2004. Started by 1st Circuit Judge Steven Alm, HOPE replaces a lax probation system that punished months or years of technical violations with sentences that could be greater than 10 years. Alm recognized that probationers needed much more immediate intervention and instituted incrementally growing jail stays for each positive drug test or missed appointment.
In the decade that HOPE has been implemented, almost a quarter of the Hawaiian probation population is under HOPE supervision. The first drug violations result in a 15 day jail sentence, then a 30 day stay. If the probationer fails repeatedly, they must enter a residential or outpatient treatment program. Finally, if they continue their drug use after treatment, they can be incarcerated for the full term of their original sentence.
A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that HOPE participants were 55 percent less likely to be newly arrested than non-participants. HOPE probationers were 72 percent less likely to renew their drug behavior and 53 percent less likely to have their probation revoked. The effectiveness of HOPE has greatly reduced the caseload burdens on most probation officers as friends and families have taken pro-active roles in monitoring offenders; most interested parties recognize that a short jail stay is much better than a second arrest for another crime.
Since the inception of HOPE, 95 percent of probation officers surveyed have voiced their support for the program because it tends to alleviate case burdens and increases the efficacy of probation. HOPE has also provided much needed relief on Hawaii’s state budget by limiting the costly measure of incarceration. The amazing success of this program has spawned similar programs in Alaska, California, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Washington.