Hawaii 2011 - Crime
Patricia Sakaguchi credits the rigorous HOPE probation
Controlling hardcore criminals
One way to fight crime is to prevent hardcore convicts from returning to crime. One big success is the HOPE program – Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement – started in 2004 by Circuit Court Judge Steven S. Alm to deliver swift consequences to criminals who violate probation.
“It’s pretty dramatic, and most of the change occurs right away,” says Paul Perrone, chief of research and statistics for the state Attorney General’s Office. “You’re looking at a reduction in missed appointments with probation officers by around 80 percent and a reduction in positive drug tests in excess of 90 percent. And there are additional improvements over time.”
“HOPE is about doing probation right,” Alm says, “and that means focusing our resources on the most risky.” It also means creating and imposing immediate consequences for all those breaking any of the rules of probation.
HOPE currently covers 1,813 of Hawaii’s toughest and most violent criminals and Alm expects that number to grow soon to 2,000 – one in every four felons. “HOPE reduces crime and victimization; it helps offenders and their families by keeping them employed and out of prison; and it saves the taxpayers substantial amounts of money.”
Patricia Sakaguchi is one of HOPE’s successes. A former drug dealer, the 51-year-old mother of five says the program’s sanctions were what she needed to get her life back on track.
“It kept me in line and kept me from doing things I shouldn’t be doing,” she says after 20 months in HOPE.
“And I love my life today,” says Sakaguchi. “I’ve got my kids back in my life, and I’m a Christian woman now. I try to give back to society. I talk to people, telling them it’s the choices you make in life.”
Twelve other states have adopted Hawaii’s HOPE program and 13 more are piloting similar programs, says Paul Perrone of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Teens gather at the Adult Friends for Youth office near Honolulu
Out of school or work—and in trouble
The service agency Adult Friends for Youth works with about 465 teens each week in four of the state’s toughest high schools: Farrington, Waipahu, Campbell and Kapolei. It defuses tensions, helps dropouts earn alternative diplomas and offers emotional support.
“One of the things we’re facing with kids, especially those preparing to graduate, is a lot of fear,” says Adult Friends founder Sid Rosen. “Some are even afraid to graduate. It’s not a rosy picture in terms of opportunities.”
Expelling troublemakers may help schools, but teens say it often drives them toward crime.
“When they expel you, you get lazy. You don’t want to go school anymore,” says Anthony Fiesta, 17, of Farrington, who has watched that happen to friends.
“Some people end up stealing if they no more money,” adds Mark Aceret, also 17, who started Leeward Community College last fall, but has also seen friends fall into criminal activity when they aren’t in school.
Stopping dropouts or offering learning alternatives can stop the drift toward crime. “If someone believes in you, you believe in yourself,” says 17-year-old Jaymel Pagaragan of Waipahu High, who did community service all last summer to convince the school to take him back after he was expelled for fighting.
But organizations like Adult Friends are hard pressed to get the money they need. “We struggled just to get $200,000 out of the state to support our programs,” says Debbie Spencer Chun, CEO of Adult Friends.
“If these kids become more productive economically and financially, then you won’t have to worry about a lot of other societal problems. But if you write this group off, it will drain the future.”
Victims of violence
Hawaii continues to have lower rates of violent crime than the national average. The state also has lower rates of death from accident, homicide and suicide.
Our attitudes and fears
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