American Prospect Online – H.O.P.E. for Reform:

Probation would be a great alternative to incarceration — if anyone knew how to get probationers to comply with probation rules. Now there’s reason for hope. A novel program in Hawaii is demonstrating that it is possible to re-invent community supervision in a way that helps probationers toe the line, cuts recidivism, and curbs their flow to over-crowed jails and prisons. By closely monitoring probationer behavior and rapidly punishing violations with relatively mild sanctions — typically a few days in jail — the program provides much-needed structure to offenders whose lives are often in disarray.
The logic behind H.O.P.E. is appealing. The system takes into account what we know about criminals: Crime attracts reckless and impulsive people, for whom deferred and low-probability threats of severe punishment are less effective than immediate and high-probability threats of mild punishment. Delivering a relatively mild sanction swiftly and consistently is both more effective and less cruel than sporadically lowering the boom. As James Q. Wilson has remarked, no sane parent would try to control a child’s misbehavior by imposing tiny risks of horrible punishments months in the future.


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