As a former state prosecutor in the 1980s, Judge Steven Aim first witnessed an inconsistent system that immediately incarcerated many convicted common criminals while releasing others on probation. Once on probation, the overwhelmed system typically failed to take any corrective action when offenders violated the terms of probation. Drug and alcohol problems seemed to be a common thread that connected offenders to their criminal behavior. After he became a judge in 2001, Judge Aim conferred with the principal parties involved in law enforcement and defense to develop Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, designed to take a consistent approach to probation that gives participants a greater chance of success.
The program takes a tough-love approach to individuals who violate the rules of their probation. As explained in a Los Angeles Times article that appears on the website of the Hawaii State Judiciary's HOPE Program website, probation violators are arrested immediately and taken to the HOPE court, where they receive the following new terms for their probation:
- The requirement to call a hotline every morning and an iron-clad requirement to take a drug test if requested during the call
- Jail time for failed drug tests, ranging from three days to 15 days for first offenses, and 30 days for repeat offenses
- Drug and alcohol abuse meetings or treatment and the possibility of a two-year residential program, based on the number of failed attempts to keep clean
During the courtroom sessions, the judge stresses the state's desire to see a resolution that successfully returns the offender to society, not place them in jail. However, continued failure to meet the terms of probation earn increasingly harsh consequences and when the chances run out, offenders can serve their full sentences in lieu of probation.
The HOPE program helps reduce incarceration costs by keeping offenders out of jail. However, its most important attribute is the benefit it provides to criminal offenders who use drugs. An experienced Hawaii drug crime defense attorney can help develop convincing cases in favor of inclusion in the HOPE program so clients have the best chance of moving forward toward drug-free lives.