HOPE: Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement

Started in 2004, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) was the first large-scale program successful in durably implementing swift, certain, and fair sanctions. Judge Steven Alm launched HOPE in response to the apparent failure of status quo probation to effectively deter probationers frequent violation of the terms of their supervision. Piloted with thirty-four initial offenders, the success of the program was so dramatic that five years after launch 1,500 people were supervised on it, twenty percent of the individuals on probation on the island of Oahu.

HOPE-supervised individuals include those who have committed violations in every category of criminal offenses—property, sex, drug, and violent offenders all have been successfully supervised under HOPE. A substantial portion of HOPE probationers struggled with abuse of methamphetamines. HOPE primarily targeted offenders identified as likely to violate the conditions of their probation.

HOPE pioneered numerous practices that have become central features of SCF supervision programs. Frequent (six times monthly to start the program) random drug tests removed any safe window for undetected drug use. A formal court warning hearing clearly laid out the terms of the probation for every probationer. Effectively streamlined judicial processes and coordination among multiple agencies (courts, probation, law enforcement, and treatment providers) resulted in expedited court hearings, drug test results, and the issuance and enforcement of bench warrants against absconders. As a result, HOPE could swiftly and certainly act against violations—credibly enforcing the terms outlined in the warning hearing. However, penalties for violations were calibrated to be parsimonious and fair—jail terms were as brief as three days. Finally, HOPE relied primarily on mandated abstinence to reduce drug use: treatment was available upon request, but only required of individuals who persistently failed drug tests.

Individuals supervised under HOPE demonstrated dramatic reductions in new arrests, failed drug tests, probation revocations, and time spent in incarceration compared to a matched sample of individuals supervised under probation as usual. The success of HOPE has inspired the adoption of similar programs in jurisdictions across the country. In 2014, the National Criminal Justice Association selected HOPE as the Outstanding Criminal Justice Program for the Western region of the United States.

Program Administrator:  Judge Steven S. Alm

Steven S. Alm

Steven S. Alm

Steven S. Alm was sworn in as a First Circuit judge on May 14, 2001 and has been assigned to the criminal division ever since. Judge Alm is the creator of the Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program, or HOPE Probation. This successful program, the first of its kind in the nation, imposes proportionate jail time swiftly and with certainty as a sanction for a positive drug test or other probation violations. An independent study of offenders in HOPE – the majority of whom are felony drug offenders at high risk of recidivism – showed that HOPE probationers did far better than members of a control group in regular probation. Judge Alm also presides over the First Circuit’s Adult Drug Court program, an assignment he assumed in March 2011. He chairs the Corrections Population Management Commission and is a co-chair of the Interagency Council on Intermediate Sanctions. He was named the 2010 Jurist of the Year by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. Prior to his judicial appointment, Judge Alm served as the United States Attorney for the District of Hawai`i from 1994 until 2001. From 1985 to 1994, Judge Alm served as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. During that time, he served as a Felony Team Supervisor and as Director of the District and Family Court division and personally handled complex homicide cases. Judge Alm received his law degree from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law and his Master’s degree in Education from the University of Oregon.

—Official Biography Courtesy of the Hawai’i State Judiciary