• Swift, Certain, & Fair

    The Swift, Certain, and Fair (SCF) approach to community supervision reduces reoffending, arrest, and incarceration by replacing unpredictable and high-level sanctions for probation violations with swift, certain, but small penalties.

About the Strategy
Tools & Guides

The Swift, Certain, and Fair (SCF) approach shares the National Network’s guiding principles in its approach to community supervision. SCF reduces reoffending, arrest, and incarceration by replacing unpredictable and high-level sanctions for probation violations with swift, certain, but small penalties. Research has shown that the transparent, consistent, and immediate response is a vital tool in shaping behavior and improving the perception that sanctions are fair. Using community supervision is much more cost effective than a prison sentence or jail term, allowing offenders to work, care for their families, and pay taxes. After a successful pilot in Hawaii known as Hawaii HOPE, similar probation programs are now operating in numerous other states across the U.S., and the U.K. is starting to adapt SCF principles to sobriety pilots in London and Glasgow.

Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE

This publication evaluates Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), a program using the SCF framework to deter reoffending by high-risk probationers. 

Swift, Certain, and Fair Warning Hearing

This is an example of a swift, certain and fair warning hearing written by Judge Steven Alm.

WISP: What have we learned? Presentation to the Seattle City Council

The Washington Intensive Supervision Program (WISP) started in February 2011 as a pilot project in Seattle to test whether the principles of SCF community supervision could succeed for higher risk parolees as well as probationers. With the aid of individuals involved in the original HOPE program, and a remarkable level of coordination and motivation among WISP staff, WISP quickly achieved a high degree of fidelity to the original HOPE model.

WISP clients differed significantly from those previously successfully supervised by SCF programs. As one of the first SCF programs to supervise parolees, WISP generally supervised individuals with longer and more serious criminal histories than previous programs. WISP clients also had a wider variety of drug abuse problems, with heroin in particular being a notable challenge.

The pilot was such a success that in April 2012, the state legislature overwhelming passed a law rolling out the program statewide. In rapid fashion, approximately 17,000 offenders supervised out of 113 field offices were oriented into WISP.

"Swift and Certain" Consequences in Probation and Parole

A video interview with the Honorable Steven S. Alm of HOPE at the 2009 NIJ Conference in Washington explains the logic behind the strategy.

Swift and Certain Punishment: Innovative ways to reduce reoffending

American Friends of Policy Exchange hosted Judge Steven S. Alm, creator of Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, for a lecture and discussion on how ‘swift and certain’ punishment can dramatically reduce reoffending.

When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment

Since the crime explosion of the 1960s, the prison population in the United States has multiplied fivefold, to one prisoner for every hundred adults--a rate unprecedented in American history and unmatched anywhere in the world. Even as the prisoner head count continues to rise, crime has stopped falling, and poor people and minorities still bear the brunt of both crime and punishment. When Brute Force Fails explains how we got into the current trap and how we can get out of it: to cut both crime and the prison population in half within a decade.

Mark Kleiman demonstrates that simply locking up more people for lengthier terms is no longer a workable crime-control strategy. But, says Kleiman, there has been a revolution--largely unnoticed by the press--in controlling crime by means other than brute-force incarceration: substituting swiftness and certainty of punishment for randomized severity, concentrating enforcement resources rather than dispersing them, communicating specific threats of punishment to specific offenders, and enforcing probation and parole conditions to make community corrections a genuine alternative to incarceration. As Kleiman shows, "zero tolerance" is nonsense: there are always more offenses than there is punishment capacity. But, it is possible--and essential--to create focused zero tolerance, by clearly specifying the rules and then delivering the promised sanctions every time the rules are broken.

Mark A.R. Kleinman argues brute-force crime control has been a costly mistake, both socially and financially. Now that we know how to do better, it would be immoral not to put that knowledge to work. To order a copy of his book, click here for more information.

Mark Kleiman: Can We Reduce Drug Crime Without Treatment?

UCLA Public Policy Professor Mark Kleiman explains how a judge in Hawaii stopped drug offenders from violating parole with a cost-effective program at Zocolo Public Square in 2009.

The Palliative Use of Marijuana: Demystifying Connecticut's Policy Concerning Medical Marijuana

Mark A.R. Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs delivers the keynote address at the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal's 2013 symposium: "The Palliative Use of Marijuana: Demystifying Connecticut's Policy Concerning Medical Marijuana."

Can the 24/7 Sobriety Project Reduce Problem Drinking and Improve Public Health?

Alcohol consumption can impose enormous health and safety costs on individuals and society. Problem drinkers account for a disproportionate share of these costs. Although millions of problem drinkers pass through the criminal justice system each year, reducing their alcohol consumption has proven difficult.

South Dakota's innovative 24/7 Sobriety Project requires those arrested for or convicted of alcohol-involved offenses to take twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet. Those who fail or skip their tests are immediately subject to swift, certain but modest sanctions—typically a day or two in jail. After a five-county pilot project, “24/7” quickly grew to cover additional jurisdictions and offenses (e.g., assault).

Although 24/7 has won national awards, received tremendous attention in the domestic and international press, and is now being implemented in other states, evidence of its effectiveness has been largely anecdotal and descriptive. RAND researchers recently published the first peer-reviewed evaluation of whether 24/7 improved public health in South Dakota.

Mark Kleiman comments on drugs, violence and putting drug cartels out of business

Mark Kleiman discusses an application of the swift, certain and fair policy to drug abuse in an international context. You can focus drug law enforcement in a way that reduces violence by in effect saying to market participants, "your chances of being nailed for your drug dealing activity goes up if you hurt people in the process," he says.

Amos, S., Crim, D., Taxman, F. S., Reedy, D. C., Moline, K. I., Ormond, M., & Yancey, C. (2003). Strategies for the Drug-Involved Offender.

Bulman, P. (2010). In brief: Hawaii HOPE. NIJ Journal, 266, 26-27.

Carns, T. W., & Martin, S. (2011). Anchorage PACE probation accountability with certain enforcement: A preliminary evaluation of the Anchorage pilot PACE project. Alaska Judicial Council.

DuPont, R. L., & Humphreys, K. (2011). A new paradigm for long-term recovery. Substance Abuse, 32(1), 1-6.

Caulkins, J. P., & DuPont, R. L. (2010). Is 24/7 sobriety a good goal for repeat driving under the influence (DUI) offenders?. Addiction, 105(4), 575-577.

DuPont, R. L., & Wish, E. D. (1992). Operation tripwire revisited. American Academy of Political & Social Sciences.

Harrell, A., Cavanagh, S., & Roman, J. (2000). Evaluation of D.C. Superior Court Drug Intervention Programs. U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C.

Harrell, A., Roman, J., Bhati, A., & Parthasarathy, B. (2003). Impact Evaluation of the Maryland Break the Cycle Initiative.

Hawken, A. (2013). WISP: What have we learned? Presentation to the Seattle City Council.

Hawken, A. (2010). HOPE for probation: How Hawaii improved behavior with high-probability, low-severity sanctions. Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, 4(3), 1-5.

Hawken, A., & Kleiman, M. (2007). H.O.P.E. for Reform.  The American Prospect.

Hawken, A., Caulkins, J., Kilmer, B., & Kleiman, M. (2013). Quasi‐legal cannabis in Colorado and Washington: local and national implications. Addiction, 108(5), 837-838.

Hawken, A., & Kleiman, M. (2009). Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii's HOPE: Executive Summary. Washington, DC: National Criminal Justice Reference Services.

Jackley, M. J., General, A., & Dakota, S. Analysis of 24/7 Sobriety Program SCRAM Participant DUI Offense Recidivism.

Kennedy, D. M. (2009). Deterrence and crime prevention: Reconsidering the prospect of sanction (Vol. 2). Routledge.

Kilmer, B., Nicosia, N., Heaton, P., & Midgette, G. (2013). Efficacy of Frequent Monitoring With Swift, Certain, and Modest Sanctions for Violations: Insights From South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project. American Journal Of Public Health, 103(1), e37-e43.

Kleiman, M. A.R. (1987). Crackdowns: The effects of intensive enforcement on retail heroin dealing. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Kleiman, M. A. R. (1997). Coerced abstinence: A neopaternalist drug policy initiative. The new paternalism: Supervisory approaches to poverty, 182-219.

Kleiman, M. A. R., & Hawken, A. (2008). Fixing the Parole System. Issues In Science & Technology, 24(4), 45-52.

Kleiman, M. A. R., & Hawken, A. (2009). Washington Intensive Supervision Program: Evaluation Report.

Kleiman, M. A. R. (2011). Justice reinvestment in community supervision. Criminology & Public Policy, 10(3), 651-659. 

Kleiman, M. A. R., Tran, T. H., Fishbein, P., Magula, M. T., Allen, W., & Lacy, G. (2003). Opportunities and barriers in probation reform: A case study of drug testing and sanctions. California Policy Research Center.

Maxwell, S. R., & Gray, M. K. (2000). Deterrence: Testing the effects of perceived sanction certainty on probation violations. Sociological Inquiry, 70(2), 117-136.

McVay, D., Schiraldi, V., & Ziedenberg, J. (2004). Treatment or incarceration. National and state findings on the efficacy and cost savings of drug treatment versus imprisonment. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.

National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime. (2009). South Dakota 24/7 Sobriety Project.

O'Connell, D., Visher, C. A., Martin, S., Parker, L., & Brent, J. (2011). Decide your time: Testing deterrence theory's certainty and celerity effects on substance-using probationers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(3), 261-267.

Paparozzi, M. A., & Gendreau, P. (2005). An intensive supervision program that worked: Service delivery, professional orientation, and organizational supportiveness. The Prison Journal, 85(4), 445-466.

Paternoster, R., & Iovanni, L. (1986). The deterrent effect of perceived severity: A reexamination. Social Forces, 64(3), 751-777.

Sah, R. K. (1991). Social osmosis and patterns of crime. Journal of political Economy, 99(6), 1272-1295.

Singh Bhati, A., Roman, J., & Chalfin, A. (2008). To Treat or Not to Treat: Evidence on the Prospects of Expanding Treatment to Drug-Involved Offenders. U.S. Department of Justice: Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute. Washington, D.C.

Snell, Clete. (2007). Fort Bend County Community Supervision and Corrections Special Sanctions Court Program: Evaluation Report.

West, L. P., & Cook, T. C. (2005). Wyoming’s Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative: An Evaluation of Phase 1 Institution-Based Reentry Programming for Adults & Juveniles.

News & Updates

“Swift, Certain, Fair” Justice Movement Grows

August 2015  |  The Crime Report  

From Hawaii to test sites in 28 states, the new swift-certain-fair approach to probation has spread--and continues to grow.

Tags: Swift, Certain, & Fair

Pepperdine and Department of Justice Announce Swift Certain Fair Resource Center

June 2015  |  Business Wire  

New center provides free training and services in implementing and evaluating swift, certain, and fair responses in corrections across the nation.

Tags: Swift, Certain, & Fair

Swift and Certain Punishment: Innovative ways to reduce reoffending

June 2014  |  Policy Exchange  

Judge Steven Alm gives a presentation about the HOPE program at the Policy Exchange about  This program delivers swift and certain punishment designed to change behavior with the recognition that the swiftness and certainty of punishment is more important than severity.

Tags: Swift, Certain, & Fair

Lowering the Deadly Cost of Drug Abuse: Clear Legal Sanctions Can Get Users Off Drugs

March 2014  |  The New York Times  

UCLA Luskin's professor of public policy Mark Kleiman discusses how using SCF sanctions as a complement to drug treatment can encourage users to get off drugs on NYT's Room for Debate.

Tags: Fort Worth Swift, Certain, & Fair

Worcester courts to try new approach to reduce ex-inmates’ lapses

February 2014  |  Telegram & Gazette  

As part of a two-year pilot program, a handful of those involved in the Worcester superior and district courts are adopting a model built on the HOPE framework originated by Judge Steven Alm over a decade ago in Hawaii.

Tags: Swift, Certain, & Fair

Hawaii HOPE: A new probation program in Hawaii beats the statistics

February 2014  |  PBS Newshour   

NewsHour Weekend profiles an innovative probation program in Hawaii that has been so successful in reforming offenders and keeping them out of prison, it's now being copied in courtrooms across the nation.

Tags: Swift, Certain, & Fair

Probation That Works: Parole that Pleases Conservatives, Liberals, and Prisoners

July 2013  |  Slate  

In the spring of 2006, Angela Hawken flew to Hawaii to investigate year-long innovative pilot penal reform program. The program, called Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, or HOPE, is based on simple precepts that the judge who created it likened to “Parenting 101.” It immediately jails, for no more than three or four days, offenders who miss a probation appointment or fail a drug test.

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Smart on Crime

March 2013  |  Democracy Journal  

Being tough on criminals hasn’t worked, but neither has being lenient. Mark Kleiman's essay on crime control makes a strong case that despite recent crime decline we've seen over the past two decades, crime levels remain unacceptably high and reducing crime levels using the SCF strategy would yield enormous economic and social dividends. 

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Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and a Visiting Professor of Public Service at NYU Wagner. At Marron, he leads the Crime Reduction and Justice program. Professor Kleiman's recent work includes methods for accommodating imperfect rational decision-making in policy, designing deterrent regimes that take advantage of positive-feedback effects, and the substitution of swiftness and predictability for severity in the criminal justice system. Kleiman is also the Chairman of BOTEC Analysis Corporation, a research and consulting firm that develops solutions to issues in public policy, particularly in the areas of criminal justice and drug policy. 

Angela Hawken led the randomized controlled trial of Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), a swift-and-certain-sanctions model to manage high-risk probationers. At RAND, she conducted research on early education, sentencing, and tort reform.

Beau Kilmer is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, where he codirects the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.  His research lies at the intersection of public health and public safety, with a special emphasis on substance use, illicit markets, crime, and public policy. Special projects include measuring the effect of South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Program on drunk driving and domestic violence outcomes, and evaluating other innovative programs intended to reduce violence.