Circuit Court judge, HOPE founder Alm retires, but work isn’t over

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Oahu Circuit Court Judge Steven Alm is retiring after 15 years on the bench.

But don’t expect him to sit around and do nothing. As one chapter ends, another is about to begin.

Alm created Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) in 2004.

“My wife and I are planning to rent our house out and move to the Washington, D.C. area for two or three years, and it’ll be easier to promote the HOPE project from there, and there may be a HOPE Institute that will get funded,” Alm said.

Compared to regular probation, HOPE has more supervision, immediate consequences for violations, but also incentives for following the terms.

“People on HOPE are going to get charged with new crimes, there’s no question about that. But if they weren’t on HOPE, they’d be on regular probation and we have research showing people on HOPE are being charged with new crimes, 10 years down the road, 22 percent less than people on regular probation,” Alm said.

Alm admits HOPE isn’t perfect, and there are critics. But it’s good enough that more than 30 states have created a probation program modeled after HOPE.

By moving to D.C., Alm will be able to promote HOPE even more.

“I’ll be able to work with the Department of Justice, work with the Drug Czar’s office, Congress in ways that I just can’t do geographically from here,” Alm said.

Before Alm was nominated as a Circuit Court judge in 2001, he served as U.S. Attorney, and before then was a Honolulu deputy prosecutor.

As a judge, he wants people to remember him as being fair.

His advice for anyone who hopes to ascend to the bench: “Being a trial attorney is very exciting very hard work, stressful, but it can be very satisfying at the same time. But if people want to be lawyers and do that for awhile, then think about being a judge. Don’t talk to a lot of people about it, because it’ll sound like you’re unhappy with your current job, and it’s hard to get picked to be a judge. It’s really difficult,” Alm said.

But he also said it’s worth it because of the impact you can make.

Alm’s last day as judge will be on Wednesday.

“It’s the end of this phase, and I’ve loved being a judge, the best seat in the courthouse,” Alm said.

As for who’s going to take over HOPE? That will be Judge Willie Domingo, who’s currently a District Court judge.

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