Home » HRC side event – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD project)

HRC side event – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD project)

Ian Goodhew: Deputy chief of staff – kings county prosecuting attorney’s office

Innovative project made up of a number of organisations including the Seattle Police department, the prosecutors office, the defender association (public defence agency), ACLU, department of corrections, sheriff’s office.

LEAD gives police on the street a choice when arresting low level offenders about diverting them into treatment. It also gives low level drug offenders a choice between jail or services.

A range of services are offered to in the program including drug treatment, job skills, education, housing etc. Case workers are on call 24 hours a day so when arrests are made, they can instantly see a caseworker if they choose to enter the program.

Program came about in response to the period of 1988-2002 when there was essentially an open drug market in the district. School zone prosecutions were high and prison sentences doubled, sometimes tripled. In 1993 – 26% of all prison inmates in state of Washington in on drug convictions.

Arrests were disproportionately targeted at African American’s and constant litigation by the defender association lead to them exploring a new solution. In 2002, Norm Maleng started advocating  for state drug law reform and hard-line prosecutors began to think that treatment, not prison is the answer. LEAD was also a budgetary response due to increased budget cuts,  – the old ways of prosecuting was resource intensive –  and was not over. No government funding, privately funded.

By 2010 prosecutions down from 2000 to 400.
When they first accept treatment, they spend 2-3 hours with a case manager and as such wont  be charged with the crime. Success isn’t based on abstinence – adopts a harm reduction approach.

Jim Pugel: Assistant Chief Seattle police department.

Challenges before the project started:
– Business and resident complaints of drug related disorder
– Concern about racial disproportionately of drug arrests
– Very expensive for all agencies involved.
– Most subsistence users. They sold drugs so they could pay there rent, food or more drugs.

Qualifications for entering the LEAD program. (10% don’t want help and go to jail)
– Less than 3 grams of drugs being sold/in possession
– Individual is amenable to diversion
– Subsistence dealer
– Person doesn’t exploit others/minors for sale
-Cannot promote prostitution
– Generally the person hasn’t committed murder arson robbery, rape, assault, gun violation.

Its a harm reduction program- they aren’t enforced to be abstinent. Evaluations begin straight away at the precinct and allows police to go back on the street.

Kris Nyrop: The defenders project
Core principles is getting services to be on demand. LEAD has to meet the needs of the local community – everyone needs to be happy! If the program doesn’t work for one of the constituencies, the project wont work.

Do the people diverted commit less crime? This is the first of a four year project and the data will be analysed to see how effective the program is.

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