Officals: Probation reforms successful in reducing crimes, costs
Published 12:08 pm Sunday, March 30, 2014
LANSING—Sen. John Proos welcomed Judge Steven S. Alm, creator of Hawaii’s Honest Opportunity with Probation Enforcement (HOPE) program, to Lansing to discuss the positive results of the initiative in Hawaii and the benefits Michigan could realize if the state’s similar program were expanded statewide.
“Judge Alm created a probation program so successful in reducing crime, drug use and jail time that is has become the model of reforms across the nation, including our Swift and Sure program,” said Proos, sponsor of Michigan’s Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program. “I applaud Judge Alm for his leadership and for coming to Michigan to personally discuss the program’s positive results and the challenges we face in controlling costs while protecting public safety.”
Proos said the proven results of the HOPE program were the main reasons he brought it to Michigan. In one year, probationers in Hawaii’s HOPE program were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 72 percent less likely to use drugs and 53 percent less likely to have their probation revoked than the control group. As a result, they also served or were sentenced to an average of 48 percent fewer days of incarceration.
“I’m excited about how Swift and Sure is rolling out in Michigan. We’ve had great success with it in Hawaii, and Michigan now has the second-largest program in the country,” Alm said. “Swift and certain — but consistent and proportionate — punishment is how we learn as kids and it’s how probationers can learn to change their behavior.”
Michigan’s Swift and Sure program began as a pilot project in the state’s 2012 budget for counties with combined courts and drug courts. Public Acts 616 and 617 of 2012 made it a permanent program, supervising high-risk probationers and requiring them to undergo frequent, random drug and alcohol testing so treatment decisions are based on the probationer’s behavior.
“We have seen outstanding results in Michigan, such as a 70 percent drop in the rate of positive sub¬stance abuse tests in Berrien County among probationers in the Swift and Sure program when compared to those not in the program,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “In fact, the largest problem we may face is awareness, with nearly half of Michigan’s judges unfamiliar with Swift and Sure. For Michigan to achieve the $25 million in annual savings, we must inform more judges about the effectiveness of the program and eventually bring it to every courthouse in the state.”
A Feb. 13, 2014 report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center said “for the HOPE model to work, enough judges must adopt it for the desired systemic impacts.”
It also reported that 43 percent of Michigan judges did not know about the state’s Swift and Sure program.