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Introduction Of The "Honest Opportunity Probation With Enforcement (hope) Initiative Act Of 2009''

Floor Speech

Location: Washington D.C.

* Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce the ``Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Initiative Act of 2009'' with my colleague Representative Ted Poe of Texas. This bipartisan legislation would build upon an innovative and promising approach to reduce drug use and crime.

* Offenders convicted of many drug, low-level property, and public-order offenses are rarely given straight jail time; in most jurisdictions they are placed on probation. Rather than consistently sanctioning probation violations--illegal drug use, missing probation appointments, treatment and drug tests--too often these actions are ignored. When punishment for repeated violations is finally meted out, it tends to come in the form of lengthy and costly terms of incarceration.

* In 2004, Judge Steven Alm of Hawaii launched a pilot program to reduce probation violations by offenders at high risk of recidivism. This intensified supervision program, called Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, HOPE, uses the threat of short jail stays as an incentive for compliance. Defendants are clearly warned that if they violate the rules, they go to jail. Participants receive swift and immediate sanctions for each violation, such as testing dirty for drugs or missing appointments with a probation officer.

* For example, under the Hawaii program, random drug testing occurs at least once a week for the first 2 months of supervision. If probationers test positive, they are arrested immediately. If they fail to appear for the test or violate other terms of probation, warrants for their arrest are issued immediately. Once arrested or apprehended, a probation modification hearing is held 2 days later, and violators typically receive a short jail term. Sanctions typically start at a few days of jail time, served on weekends for employed probationers, for the first violation and increased thereafter, eventually escalating to periods of months. Offenders who cannot comply are required to attend high-quality, out-patient or residential treatment. Those who can comply are rewarded with less frequent testing and monitoring.

* Preliminary evaluations show that HOPE probationers have significantly improved outcomes compared with probationers assigned to probation-as-usual in terms of drug use, missed probation appointments, new arrests, and probation revocations. The HOPE program has been cited by figures across the political spectrum and has been featured in scholarly articles as well as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.

* The ``Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, HOPE, Initiative Act of 2009'' would create a competitive grant demonstration program to award grants to state and local courts to establish probation programs to reduce drug use, crime, and recidivism by requiring swift, predictable, and graduated sanctions for noncompliance with the conditions of probation; $25 million is authorized for up to 20 pilot sites. Stringent grantee requirements will ensure that the pilots are designed and evaluated in an appropriate manner. The key facets of each pilot program include the following:

* Monitoring selected probationers for rules violations, particularly using regular and rapid-result drug tests.

* Responding to violations of such rules with immediate arrest and swift and certain modification of the conditions of probation, including imposition of short jail stays, which may gradually become longer with each additional violation.

* Partnering with an independent program advisor and evaluator and conduct a comparison of the outcomes between program participants and similarly-situated probationers not in the program, e.g. positive drug test rates, probation and substance abuse treatment appearance rates, probation term modifications, revocations, arrests, etc.

* Calculating the amount of cost savings resulting from the reduced incarceration rates achieved through the program and determining how much can be reinvested for expansion of the program.

* I urge my colleagues to support this innovative effort to address drug use and crime by cosponsoring this important legislation.

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