Swift and certain probation: Assessing fidelity to the HOPE model

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While outcomes for HOPE and HOPE-like probation programs have received a good deal of attention in the literature, there is arguably less focus on implementation of those programs with fidelity to the HOPE model. This study describes one such program, the Swift and Certain Probation program in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, and the degree to which it was implemented with fidelity using the list of elements laid out in the Demonstration Field Experiment (DFE) Final Report. We observed the Swift and Certain Probation program for two years and found that it is implemented with fidelity across many, but not all, of the elements of HOPE. We conclude with lingering issues for both the implementation and evaluation of HOPE and, especially, HOPE-like programs.

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Background and aims Over the past three decades an expansive literature has emerged that is dedicated to analysing the processes of policy transfer. One neglected pathway involves subnational agents emulating crime control innovations that have emerged in subnational jurisdictions of other nations. This paper presents the case of the London Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime's (MOPAC) Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement (AAMR) Pilot to examine the multi‐level factors that facilitate and/or constrain international‐subnational crime and justice policy transfer. Methods A qualitative case study design reconstructed the (in)formal events that led to components of the South Dakota 24/7 Sobriety Project (USA) being either abandoned or integrated into MOPAC's AAMR Pilot. Evidence is drawn from elite interviews and documentary materials. Results A series of inter/transnational‐, macro‐domestic‐, meso‐ and micro‐level factors enabled and/or obstructed processes of complete international‐subnational policy transfer. Exclusion of domestic violence perpetrators from the London Pilot was fuelled by interest group hostility and mobilisation. Use of alcohol tags rather than breathalysers to monitor compliance was an upshot of political‐economic constraints, concern surrounding intrusion, technological innovation and policy‐orientated learning. The decision to omit an ‘offender pays' funding mechanism was a consequence of legal incompatibility and civil service reluctance, while ‘flash incarceration' for breach was not implemented due to European policy harmonisation. Conclusions The London UK Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement Pilot was a policy ‘synthesis' that combined ideas, goals, vocabulary, principles, technology and practices from the South Dakota (USA) model with the existing English and Welsh criminal justice framework. Structural factors and the actions of particular agents limited the extent to which policy transfer occurred.
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On the basis of limited empirical evidence, advocates of Project HOPE (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) have succeeded in spreading the model to a reported 31 states and 160 locations. A recent randomized control experiment across four sites has revealed negative results: no overall effect on recidivism. In this context, we examine how prominent advocates of Project HOPE have coped with the arrival of this “bad news.” Despite null findings from a “gold standard” evaluation study, advocates continue to express confidence in the HOPE model and to support its further implementation. The risk thus exists that Project HOPE is entering a post-factual world in which diminishing its appeal—let alone its falsification—is not possible. It is the collective responsibility of corrections researchers to warn policy makers that the HOPE model is not a proven intervention and may not be effective in many agencies. It is also our responsibility to create a science of community supervision that can establish more definitively best practices in this area.
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Previous meta-analyses have identified many effective interventions for reducing the recidivism of juvenile offenders and various program factors that are asso-ciated with the best outcomes. Most of that work has been focused on only one interven-tion area and thus has limited scope. Notable exceptions are two relatively comprehensive meta-analyses that have identified a small number of factors or princi-ples that appear to characterize the most effective programs. This paper presents a new analysis of data from one of those meta-analyses designed to test a broader range of intervention factors in a manner that allows identification of both the general principles and the distinct intervention types associated with the greatest reductions in recidi-vism. Only three factors emerged as major correlates of program effectiveness: a "thera-peutic" intervention philosophy, serving high risk offenders, and quality of implementation. With other variables statistically controlled, relatively few differences were found in the effectiveness of different types of therapeutic interventions. Meta-analytic reviews of research on the effects of interventions with juvenile offenders have provided ample evidence that a rather broad range of such The construction of the meta-analysis database on which the analyses in this paper are based was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Russell Sage Foundation. Thanks to Paul Gendreau, James Howell, and Darin Carver for useful comments on this paper.
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The first purpose of this review was to assess the impact of implementation on program outcomes, and the second purpose was to identify factors affecting the implementation process. Results from over quantitative 500 studies offered strong empirical support to the conclusion that the level of implementation affects the outcomes obtained in promotion and prevention programs. Findings from 81 additional reports indicate there are at least 23 contextual factors that influence implementation. The implementation process is affected by variables related to communities, providers and innovations, and aspects of the prevention delivery system (i.e., organizational functioning) and the prevention support system (i.e., training and technical assistance). The collection of implementation data is an essential feature of program evaluations, and more information is needed on which and how various factors influence implementation in different community settings.
While the manifestation of therapeutic jurisprudence in specialty courts such as mental health and drug courts has received attention in the literature, there is little scholarship on the manifestation and function of therapeutic jurisprudence in probation settings. This study examines therapeutic jurisprudence in the context of a HOPE-based probation program called Swift and Certain probation. We observed status hearings and surveyed participants on their perceptions of the program for over 2 years. We found that therapeutic jurisprudence was manifested in the judge’s liberal use of praise during status hearings, which appeared to be an important part of participants’ positive perceptions of him and of procedural justice more generally. It was also manifested, though less directly, in interactions and relationships participants have with their probation officers. We conclude with suggestions for the implementation of therapeutic justice practices in Swift and Certain and similar probation programs.
Research Summary In the program implemented in the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Demonstration Field Experiment (HOPE DFE), the following approach is taken: close monitoring; frequent drug testing; readily available substance abuse treatment; and swift, certain, and fair sanctioning to deter probationers from violating supervision conditions. We assessed in this study the costs and outcomes of the demonstration program across four jurisdictions, using 24 months of data from 625 probationers randomly assigned to probation as usual (PAU) or HOPE DFE. Our results reveal that the HOPE DFE group incurred more criminal justice costs than the PAU group over the observation period. Policy Implications Our study results further demonstrate that HOPE in the DFE is associated with higher rates of incarceration and residential treatment, leading to an increase in total costs when compared with PAU. Jurisdictions choosing to implement programs like HOPE to hold probationers accountable would need additional resources from the criminal justice system to support the program.
Research Summary: This study used a randomized controlled trial approach with a sample of 400 high-risk probationers to test the hypothesis that a program incorporating principles of deterrence, graduated sanctions, and coerced abstinence would reduce recidivism rates among drug-using offenders. Bivariate and multilevel modeling strategies were implemented. Findings revealed no discernable difference across multiple drug use, probationary, and recidivism measures between those randomized into the treatment condition and those receiving standard probation. In multivariate models, probationer age, employment status, and treatment participation improved some recidivism outcomes. Programmatic and sample characteristics are discussed regarding the lack of experimental effect. Policy Implications: These findings suggest that in designing and implementing deterrence-informed community supervision approaches, policy makers and practitioners should consider offender attributes, the addition of employment and treatment-based programs and supports, and local justice system structures. The findings of this study fit well with other emerging models of offender supervision, in particular, those that match services and programs based on offender risks and needs and those that recognize and address the heterogeneity of the offender population in developing supervision and service plans. Swift, certain, and fair supervision approaches for individuals under community supervision do not seem to be a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. Understanding for whom they work and under what conditions has not yet been determined. In the meantime, policy makers and practitioners should endeavor to understand the risks and needs of their local offender population and the community supports that are available to improve offender outcomes and increase public safety.
Research Summary More than 1,500 probationers in four sites were randomly assigned to probation as usual (PAU) or to Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), which is modeled on Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (Hawaii HOPE) program that emphasizes close monitoring; frequent drug testing; and swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctioning. It also reserves scarce treatment resources for those most in need. The four sites offered heterogeneity in organizational relationships and populations as well as implementation that was rated very good to excellent—thus, providing a robust test of the HOPE supervision model. Recidivism results suggest that HOPE/SCF supervision was not associated with significant reductions in arrests over PAU with the exception of a reduction in drug‐related arrests in one site. There were significant—albeit conflicting—differences in time to revocation, with survival models suggesting shorter times to revocation in two sites and longer times to revocation in one site. Policy Implications HOPE—or the more general SCF approach to community supervision—has been widely praised as an evidence‐based practice that reduces substance use, violations, new arrests, and revocations to prison. Substantial reductions in return to prison have been associated with claims of significant cost savings for HOPE/SCF over PAU despite the need for additional resources for warning and violation hearings, drug testing, and warrant service. Results from this recently completed, four‐site randomized control trial (RCT) showed that recidivism arrest outcomes were largely similar between those on HOPE/SCF probation and those on PAU and are consistent with findings from the Delaware Decide Your Time (DYT) RCT reported in this issue. No differences in arrests between HOPE and PAU probationers suggest that HOPE can be implemented to provide greater adherence to an idealized probation in which violations are met with a swift (but non‐draconian) response without compromising public safety. Nevertheless, the larger numbers of revocations for HOPE probationers in two sites, coupled with the additional expenses for drug testing, warrant service, and so on associated with HOPE, also suggest that overall cost savings may not be realized. Although additional research is needed to determine whether there are groups for whom HOPE may be more effective than PAU, HOPE/SCF seems unlikely to offer better outcomes and lower costs for broad classes of moderate‐to‐high–risk probationers.
In the wake of the mass incarceration movement, many states must now manage the rebound of decarceration. Thermodynamic forces of the justice system, however, have pushed former fiscal pressures of institutions onto that of community corrections. Encouraged by the positive findings of recently piloted innovations, several jurisdictions have taken great interest in the implementation of deterrence-based sanctioning models when dealing with supervision violations. Among the first to implement a statewide turn to this style of sanctioning, Washington State's swift-and-certain (SAC) policy was implemented in June 2012. The intent of SAC was to expand the model found in Hawaii's Opportunity Probation and Enforcement (HOPE) to a wider criminal justice population, while emphasizing the reduction of confinement costs. This study focused on the impact of SAC with regard to supervision outcomes for participants. By using a quasi-experimental design, we examined confinement, recidivism, treatment, violation, and costs outcomes of SAC participants. Findings reveal that SAC participants were found to incur fewer sanctioned incarceration days after a violation, reduced odds of recidivism, possessed greater treatment program utilization, reduced their propensity of committing violations over time, and as a result, imposed lower correctional and associated costs. The SAC model provides noteworthy positive effects and no appreciable negative impacts on public safety.
Based in Hawaii, Project HOPE uses certain but non-severe graduated sanctions to specifically deter probationers from violating supervision conditions, especially drug use. Scholars and policy makers have trumpeted HOPE as a new model for offender supervision even though the evaluation evidence, though promising is limited. In this context, we explore the sources of the program's "correctional popularity," which has led to its uncritical acceptance and importation to the U.S. mainland. We argue that several uncertainties about the program may potentially compromise its effectiveness in other jurisdictions, thus offering false hope as a new paradigm for effective probation supervision. Finally, we caution that correctional popularity risks exacting a high cost when promising, if not unproven, programs-such as Project HOPE-are adopted rather than alternative evidence-based treatment strategies.
This Article discusses the deterrence of crime through sanctions. It begins with a brief intellectual history of deterrence theory in the work of Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, two Enlightenment philosophers who created the conceptual foundation for later deterrence and rational choice theory. Although a prominent intellectual current by the end of the 1700s, interest in deterrence and rational choice based theories of criminal offending was later eclipsed by more biologically and psychologically based explanations. Interest in deterrence theory and the deterrent effect of legal sanctions was not rekindled until the mid-1960s. This Article discusses the particular and important role of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology in publishing the works of both those who were highly critical of deterrence theory and those who wished to keep it alive, though vividly aware of the lack of any empirical support for it. This Article discusses the theoretical connections that are presumed by the deterrence process and briefly reviews some important empirical studies pertaining to each of those presumed causal connections. The empirical evidence leads to the conclusion that there is a marginal deterrent effect for legal sanctions, but this conclusion must be swallowed with a hefty dose of caution and skepticism; it is very difficult to state with any precision how strong a deterrent effect the criminal justice system provides. At the very least, there is a great asymmetry between what is expected of the legal system through deterrence and what the system delivers. There is greater confidence that non-legal factors are more effective in securing compliance than legal threats. It is argued that the empirical evidence does support the belief that criminal offenders are rational actors, in that they are responsive to the incentives and disincentives associated with their actions, but that the criminal justice system, because of its delayed imposition of punishment, is not well constructed to exploit this rationality.
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