Hope

Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement

November 22, 2010  | 2 min read

Since 2006 Hawken has been leading the randomized controlled trial of Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, which provides a swift-and-certain-sanctions model of rehabilitation for high-risk probationers. U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske identified HOPE as the most promising initiative that "not only prevents recidivism, but also actively assists individuals to transition to productive lives." Pepperdine Magazine asked Hawken for an update on HOPE and what the program could offer former inmates across the United States.

Are you pleased with the progress of the HOPE project so far?

The results have been outstanding. HOPE has resulted in dramatic reductions in drug use, crime, and incarceration. I know of no other program that can improve offender behavior this well at such a low cost. If HOPE works as well in other states as it does in Hawaii, it will revolutionize probation and parole in the U.S. There will be less crime and less incarceration. It's a win-win.

How has the Hawaiian government responded to the results of the project and what plans are in place to expand the model in the United States?

I testified before the Hawaiian legislature in March. Their legislature has been very supportive of HOPE, as has their chief justice, and the federal government is also very interested in HOPE. I testified before Congress in August and it is clear that there is a lot of excitement over HOPE. A number of replication studies are already underway. Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, and California have already launched their versions of HOPE and a number of other states are in the planning stages.

Would you consider taking the program to South America, where many countries are struggling with increasing drug-related violence?

HOPE targets drug use. Since most heavy illicit drug users move in and out of criminal-justice supervision, success in reducing their drug use via HOPE supervision could drastically shrink both the drug markets and the fiscal and human costs of drug law enforcement. Countries that supply illicit drugs to the U.S. would benefit from the shrinking U.S. market.

What the long-term plans for HOPE?

We know that HOPE probationers stop using drugs and behave well while they are actively under HOPE supervision, but we don't know if they stay clean when they are off of probation and no one is looking over their shoulders. I have received research funding to track long-term outcomes for HOPE probationers; we will collect hair samples from the HOPE subjects to check on their drug use and use administrative data to see if they have had any encounters with the law. I hired SPP graduate Matt Leighty (MPP '10) as assistant project director, and five SPP students will be involved with this research. We have a great evaluation team and hope to report on preliminary findings early in the new year.