Department of Justice

Reduce Prison Costs & Crime by Using Evidence Based Probation

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Divert 1% of Federal Bureau of Prisons $6.8 billion budget and transfer that $68 million to the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs to establish a national pilot program of “zero tolerance probation” under the Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) model. HOPE combines random drug testing and swift, but modest sanctions, such as a weekend in jail, for any probation violation. This compares with standard probation, which leaves probation officers and judges with two choices – ignore violations or revoke probation and send repeated violators back to prison for an extended - and expensive - prison sentence. Hawaii's approach has generated substantial cost savings and has been carefully evaluated. The National Institute of Justice funded study: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/corrections/community/drug-offenders/hawaii-hope.htm) found that HOPE was extremely effective in reducing violations (such as positive drug tests, missed appointments) and led to a more than 50% reduction in probation revocations – which send people back to prison for extended sentences due to repeated violations. At $2,500 costs per client, $68 million would fund more than 25,000 HOPE type slots. Any results close to what was achieved in Hawaii would provide enormous savings to the Bureau of Prisons. At $22,632 per inmate costs per year in the Federal prison system, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Cost), the program could generate $282 million in the first full year of operations due to reduced revocations of probation, a huge return for the taxpayers, not to mention a great benefit to the ex-offenders who can avoid going back to prison. If the results match what was found in Hawaii the program could be expanded to generate substantial savings - potentially billions of dollars per year - over the subsequent five years.

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Idea No. 10769