On Tuesday May 11, 2010 4:00 p.m. two measures will be heard by the U. S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security: H.R. 4080, the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009; and H.R. 4055, the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Initiative Act of 2009.

Reinvesting in crime and the HOPE programs could provide for restorative interventions. Judge Steven Alm a former U.S. Attorney for Hawai‘i, developed the HOPE program. While it is often cited for effectiveness by speedy sanctions and random UAs, I think the positive motivation, drug treatment, and the compassion the people receive from the program are even more important.

We watched Judge Alm in HOPE a couple weeks ago. He addressed everyone with respect and kindness. He asked about people’s families and how they were getting along. When there were incidents of relapse, and he sentenced someone to short jail terms, he always allowed them to serve their time on their days off from work. He never imposed jail during work hours for individuals the day I observed. From my years sitting in criminal courts, and watching people who must appear before judges, I was struck by the relaxed and peaceful demeanors of the people coming before Judge Alm.

Below is the testimony I submitted in support of the federal two measures that can help promote restorative justice in our country. Please consider submitting testimony yourself by emailing it to: Liliana.Coronado@mail.house.gov and Veronica.Eligan@mail.house.gov

U. S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security

Testimony for: H.R. 4080, the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009; and H.R. 4055, the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Initiative Act of 2009.

Hearing: Washington D.C., Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 4:00 p.m.

I STRONGLY SUPPORT these two measures to: 1) Establish a criminal justice reinvestment grant program to help States and local jurisdictions reduce spending on corrections, control growth in the prison and jail populations, and increase public safety, H.R. 4080; and 2) Authorize a national HOPE Program to reduce drug use, crime, and the costs of incarceration, H.R. 4055.

I endorse these measures based on my professional and personal experiences. Professionally, I am a 58-year-old public health educator, long time criminal justice practitioner, and researcher who formerly both defended and prosecuted criminal cases. Additionally, I defended civil claims against Hawai’i state agencies including its prison and child welfare systems. Personally, I lived on my own at age 14; dropped out of school at 15; was incarcerated at 16; had a baby at 18; certified as a Montessori teacher at 19; taught pre-school and was eventually made director of it at 22; was almost murdered and seriously injured in a violent assault by a stranger at 24; and put myself through college and law school on federal grants and loans, while raising my daughter. Please see www.lorennwalker.com for my current publications and further review of my work and experiences.

In 1973, Hawai’i had the lowest recidivism rate in the country at 5% when people were paroled more often, and the head of the paroling authority, Russell Takaki, took parolees “home for dinner, got them jobs and took them surfing.” In 1979, I worked as a student intern and volunteer at the Hawai’i women’s prison when there were about 20 women incarcerated by the state. Today, there are almost 800 women incarcerated by Hawai‘i.

Research shows that most young people desist or “grow out of crime,” even without professional intervention, if they are given opportunities to succeed in society. (Shadd Maruna, 2006, Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives, American Psychological Association: NY). Research also confirms that most imprisoned people have serious histories of substance abuse problems, which are substantially unaddressed by our correctional institutions (Jeremy Travis, 2005, But They All Come Back, The Urban Institute Press: Washington D.C.).

Our country suffers from recidivism and people relapsing with substance abuse, and from the exorbitant cost of maintaining our unsustainable correctional system, e.g., the state of Hawai‘i is mainly relying on volunteers to do prison rehabilitation work, while educational and social programs, that prevent and rehabilitate people from crime and substance abuse, are being eliminated here and across the country.

If we do not spend the money to stop recidivism, support rehabilitation measures, and treat substance abuse with meaningful interventions, we will spent more later on further prison costs, and more damaged victims and offenders in the future.

Recidivism hurts our community and makes it less safe. It is short sighted to not support rehabilitation programs shown to work. In the long run we will suffer the consequences. We must address recidivism and find evidence-based ways to prevent repeat crime and substance abuse relapsing.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit my testimony and for your hard work.