The Hope House is not a lock-up facility. The are no armed guards or prison bars. What residents experience during their court-ordered stays is a high level of supervision and treatment centered around finding work and observing rules.
Hope House is one of three residential confinement facilities operated within Iowa’s 6th Judicial District. The Gerald R. Hinzman Center, an 86-bed unit, and the Lary A. Nelson Center, a 93-bed unit, are both located in Cedar Rapids.
The smallest of the three, Hope House, is a 58-bed facility that is always at capacity. Prior to moving-in at its current location in 1990, Hope House was located for six years at a 34-bed facility on Waterfront Drive in Iowa City.
Hope House’s original incarnation was at a pair of houses at the corner of Iowa and Muscatine Avenues. It began as a project of a group of students and faculty at the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work in the 1970s. Honesty Opportunity Prosperity Employment spelled HOPE to form the venture’s founding acronym. The staff was a combination of students, faculty and former offenders.
Mick Meeks serves as the Residential Administrator with Sam Black as his assistant. With no corrections officers at the facility, residents are supervised by a group of thirteen residential officers(ROs). Three residential probation officers are also on staff to address any parole/probation needs residents may have and helping them to manage their finances.
The facility houses three types of residents. Parole work releases, OWI continuums and probationers. Residents are not under regular parole/probation supervision while at the facility.
Parole work releases are offenders whom the state parole board deems ready to leave prison, but whom require a structured environment before being released on full parole. The parole board generally assigns work releases to a minimum four-month stay while Hope House usually imposes a six-month maximum stay.
Those in the OWI continuum program are either second- or third-time (felony-level) offenders of Operating While Intoxicated laws. They undergo programming specific to substance abuse. Their general stay is six months.
Probationers assigned to the Hope House are deemed to be of high-risk for recidivism and in need of structure beyond a probation officer’s supervision. This is part of the “intermediate sanctions continuum” that provides an alternative to revocation to state prison. Probationers are court-ordered for up to a year’s stay, but may be transitioned back into the community earlier depending on progress in their program.
The facility utilizes a behavior modification system to track a resident’s progress, extending greater privileges with work and compliance, while resending privileges when there is a lack of compliance.
The requirements for advancement differ depending on an individual offender’s criminogenic needs. Identifying criminogenic needs helps facility management isolate factors that tend to present themselves – value systems, habits, emotional and mental health issues –when the individual is involved in criminal activity. The facility assigns classes and treatment programs specific to each resident.
Each resident is required to obtain full-time employment while at Hope House. Employment while at Hope House addresses a common criminogenic need that lends itself to greater stability, allowing a person to take care of themselves and show a greater investment in the community.
Rent is charged to residents while at the facility. Probationers and work releases are currently charged $18/day or $540/month while OWI continuums are charged $27/day or $720/month. OWI continuums are charged more to cover the cost of additional treatment. As prescribed by the Iowa Code, OWI continuums are required to complete 540 hours of substance abuse programming. Hope House contracts these services through a substance abuse agency, MECCA, whose fees are passed on to those in the program.