From meth addict to businessman: bread maker's story highlights policy agenda aimed at changing lives
Or, as Angela Hawken from Pepperdine University puts it, “swift, certain and small.” When Hawken did a rigorous random assignment study of HOPE, funded by the National Institute of Justice, results were dramatic. Hawken found participants 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 probation revoked.
All study participants were active drug users when the study began, but 51 percent of those in HOPE did not fail a single drug test in the first year, while 28 percent failed just one.
Most of this success occurs with accountability alone, though treatment is also available when indicated. Hawken calls this approach “behavioral triage,” which allows those who can succeed to do so on their own, while those who need more support get it. This triage is the key to cost-effective scaling of the program.
Hawken has subsequently helped track and monitor replications of HOPE in at least 12 different locations around the country. Much hinges on how carefully the program is implemented, Hawken said. “In some of our places on the mainland we have these phenomenal leaders who make it all work. In other places, it’s like banging your head against a wall.”
She is enthused about Arizona, which launched the first juvenile justice version of HOPE. She also points to Washington, a state that, Hawken said, “managed to do something that six months ago I thought was impossible.”
What Washington did was dramatically expand its program’s reach while simultaneously using it with offenders who actually hurt people and broke things. These were, as Hawken put it, “really scary people.”
While HOPE is designed to scale, no prior experiments had attempted anything like Washington's statewide implementation. Also, prior work had focused mainly on nonviolent drug addicts, not violent criminals.
Hawken feared this double overleap — both in scale and type of client — would backfire and damage the nationwide effort. She was thus quite surprised at very encouraging early results, which, she said, offer “a first glimmer that this concept might actually be able to put a big dent in the prison population.”
Would such a program have helped Dave Dahl? “I do like that,” Dahl said of the HOPE program. “If a person knows the consequences and is held exactly to them, that makes a lot of difference.
“For me, accountability has been huge because I learned to realize that I was the one who was going to make a difference in my life. Each decision I made was on me.”
Dahl has seen it from both sides now. His fiancé has a 28-year old son with a heroine addiction. “There is nothing we can do about it,” Dahl said. “When I first met her, she’d say, ‘Let’s do this for him, let’s do that for him.’ And I’d say, ‘No, we can’t do anything for him. When he gets ready, we’ll do something for him.’”
The answer is tough love, which is exactly what Judge Alm is offering, Dahl said. “The judge is saying, 'you guys have the power to change your lives. And I know that people make mistakes, but you are going to pay for it. And you are better off paying now than you are running away from it and paying more later.'”
What would he say to those still playing the game? “Have you suffered enough?” Dahl said. “Because you are going to suffer as long as you are doing this stuff. And as long as people enable you to do this stuff, you won’t suffer enough, and you won’t stop.”
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