When Brute Force Fails

The city council has invited UCLA professor Mark A.R. Kleiman, author of “When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment,” to town to chat about new methods for dealing with crime.

ST has brief profile of Kleiman and his philosophy:

One of Kleiman’s central examples of trying something different is a program launched in 2004 by a judge in Hawaii, who noticed that probationers facing long prison terms if they committed violations were still using drugs and breaking other rules because caseloads were too large and prisons too full to realistically take tough action.

The judge decided that clear rules and consequences were needed and developed a program called “Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement,” or HOPE. The program called for violators to receive shorter and swifter jail sentences — perhaps a week with escalating time for additional violations — instead of long prison terms. Paperwork was shortened to allow quick action.

At the outset, 35 probationers identified as chronic violators were given a clear warning about the program.

What happened next surprised observers: The violation rate dropped dramatically, easing the burden on the entire criminal-justice system as the probationers reacted to the real possibility of punishment, according to the book.

Kleiman is scheduled to appear at Town Hall tonight at 7:30pm.

Last year, Seattle implemented the experimental Drug Market Initiatve—designed to reduce drug dealing in the 23rd Ave corridor in the Central District—based on the work of professor David Kennedy with mixed results, depending on whom you ask.