Therapeutic jurisprudence thinking encourages us to consider what behavioural science says about how people change and to apply that in criminal justice settings.  In this guest blog, Judge Steven Alm talks about a probation program that achieves behavioural change through a combination of accountability and care…

In 2004, I was assigned to a felony trial calendar here in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I could see right away that the current probation system was not working well for many offenders and thought it could be improved.

I thought about how my wife and I had raised our child and how we were raised.   Our son knew that we loved him and cared about him, but like all families, there were certain rules to follow.  If he misbehaved, we provided a swift, certain, consistent, and proportionate response.  That gave him a chance to tie together the misbehavior with the consequence and learn not to do it again.

I thought if we could bring this firm but fair parenting concept to probation it might assist the probationers to be more successful.  I worked together with Probation Section Administrator Cheryl Inouye and her probation officers, and together we organized and implemented Hawai`i’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, or HOPE Probation.

HOPE Probation provides for swift, certain, consistent, and proportionate jail sanctions for violations of probation, all in a transparent and caring environment.

Probationers are encouraged to succeed, but are told they will be held accountable.  HOPE is procedural justice in action.   Felony probationers know they are on probation and realize there will be rules.  Now those rules are enforced in a consistent and proportionate manner.  That spells fairness to the probationers.

Top quality research by Pepperdine University and UCLA has shown that:

  • HOPE probationers, when compared to a control group on probation-as-usual, were arrested for new crimes much less often and were sent to prison half as often.
  • HOPE probation results in less victimization and crime, helps probationers and their families by helping them to succeed on probation and avoid going to prison, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

As the judge only sees probationers for violations, a single judge can supervise 2,000 felony probationers.  As such, HOPE has the potential to truly go to scale and have a profound impact on the criminal justice system.

Over the past year Ms. Inouye, and Dr. Robert DuPont, President of the Institute of Behavior and Health, and the founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and I worked together to write up a comprehensive description of the HOPE strategy through a grant provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  The resulting State of the Art of HOPE Probation describes the Essential and Recommended Elements for a successful HOPE strategy. It describes appropriate sanctions, and how HOPE has evolved in Honolulu over the years. The SOA report includes a HOPE Implementation Needs Assessment Worksheet and a Procedures Checklist to assist sites in implementing a successful HOPE strategy. There are also open letters to judges, probation officers, law enforcement, and treatment providers from these respective leaders in Honolulu encouraging the adoption of a HOPE strategy.

Strategies based on HOPE have been implemented in 29 of the 50 United States in probation, four in parole, one in pretrial, and the strategy is even being used in a prison to reduce their over reliance on restrictive housing (solitary confinement).


Judge Alm and Ms. Inouye would be happy to communicate with anyone interested in starting their own HOPE strategy, and they can be reached at:, and


HOPE State of the Art – here

Evaluation of HOPE – here

Swift Sure and Fair Resource Centre – here

HOPE website – here

4 thoughts on “HOPE for the criminal justice system

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