The Third Circuit has launched a program in Hilo called Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, or HOPE Probation. Approximately 25 felony offenders at high risk of violating the terms of their probation will be placed in the program during the initial start-up period.
The first HOPE “warning hearing” will be administered to five offenders on Wednesday, March 9, at 1 p.m. by Judge Greg Nakamura. Judge Nakamura will preside over all hearings involving offenders on HOPE Probation in addition to his regular calendar.
At a HOPE Probation warning hearing, offenders are warned that testing positive for drugs or missing an appointment with their probation officer will automatically result in jail time. “No-shows”will be tracked down by the police. Violators who turn themselves in will serve less time than“no-shows,” but they will still serve jail time.
HOPE Probationers are required to call the court each morning to learn whether they must report for a random drug test that same day. Conducting the drug test the day of the telephone call does not give probationers enough time to detoxify between highs and evade the tests. Failure to make the daily telephone call results in an immediate warrant signed by the judge.
The HOPE program is operating in the First and Second Circuits. An independent, controlled study of First Circuit HOPE probationers showed that positive drug tests were reduced by 83% among participants in HOPE probation. HOPE participants served or were sentenced to 48 percent fewer days in prison than the control group and were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime. The Second Circuit has also experienced remarkable results with offenders in its program.
“Administering proportionate consequences swiftly and with certainty has proven successful in keeping probation violators out of prison, while saving taxpayer dollars and increasing public safety,” said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “In a few months, HOPE Probation will be implemented by the Fifth Circuit on Kauai, making HOPE a statewide program. The next goal for the Judiciary, given the available resources, is to increase the number of felony probationers placed in HOPE.”
In the Third Circuit, the program will run only in Hilo. “Unfortunately, the distance from the Kona courts to the island’s only jail in Hilo, the staffing shortage with the sheriffs, and the separation of the Kona probation offices from the Kona court are obstacles that make it difficult to implement the HOPE Probation program on the west side,” said Third Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra. “The good news is that we were able to launch the program in Hilo and, given the experience of the other circuits that implemented HOPE, we should see a positive and significant impact on the majority of the HOPE participants, to the benefit of the community, as well as to the offenders’ family and friends.”