At a time of increasing prison numbers, could swift and certain sanction (SAC) programmes be a desirable model for Australia?
The best-known programme of this nature is Hawaii’s Opportunity with Probation Enforcement (HOPE). It received an Innovation in American Government Award from Harvard University in 2013 and an Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Award from the National Criminal Justice Association in 2014.
Judge Steven Alm launched the pilot programme in 2004.
HOPE adopts a “good parenting model”‘ and works as follows:
- The judge gives a 15-20 minute “warning hearing” to a group of HOPE participants.
- Offenders are told that they can count on a short jail sanction for every violation.
- Offenders are given a colour code and must call a hotline every morning to hear which colour has been selected.
- If their colour is chosen, they must appear at the probation office before 2pm that day for a drug test. Compliance and a negative test results in the assignment of a new colour associated with less regular testing.
- If an offender fails to appear, a bench warrant is issued and served immediately.
- Offenders who fail the drug test are arrested immediately and brought before a judge within 72 hours.
- Offenders who are found to have violated their probation (by missing an appointment or returning a positive drug test) are immediately sentenced to a short jail stay, with sentences increasing for successive violations.
Drug treatment is provided for those who request it or who cannot stop using drugs or alcohol on their own.