Outcome Findings from the HOPE Demonstration Field Experiment Is Swift, Certain, and Fair an Effective Supervision Strategy?
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.
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.