What Are LEAD Programs?

4 Things to Know About LEAD Programs

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs have been leading the way to a new approach in how our drug and addiction problems are handled in the US. The rate of addiction continues to grow, as does the criminal justice system, filled with people who are addicts, not criminals, but placed into punitive programs instead of restorative ones. Obviously, it hasn't been working. Instead of following the same path, LEAD programs are paving the way to a multi-layer approach that works with the individual, not against him.

It's Personalized Case Management

With the LEAD program in place, when a low-level offender has an encounter with police that would typically lead to arrest and booking, he or she may be offered the option of the LEAD program. This puts the offender in immediate contact with a case manager. This case manager works with the individual to get involved in community based programs and services, such as housing, health care, job training, addiction treatment, and mental health support.

It Stated in Seattle

The first LEAD program piloted in the Seattle community of Belltown. Inspired by the arrest referral program in the UK, a group consisting of Seattle officials, law enforcement, and community groups designed the program to reduce recidivism rates and harm to both the individuals and the community. The program was completely funded by private foundations and did not cost the city any money to manage.

It's for Low-Level Criminals

LEAD isn't designed to get the kingpin of drug trafficking. It's meant to help the woman who got addicted to drugs and ended up turning to prostitution to get high. It's for the man whose pain pill addiction got out of control and led him down the road of petty thievery. It's for those people addicted to drugs or alcohol, or engaging in prostitution, who may just need a little bit of help. To qualify for the program, you must first be selected by the arresting officer, and not have more than three grams of any drug, or combination of multiple drugs, on you at the time of arrest. Candidates must also have no previous felony convictions for violent or other certain crimes, and not be exploiting minors.

It's Working

After four full years of operation, Seattle's LEAD program is working and the idea is spreading across the country. Since its implementation, LEAD has proven to interrupt the cycle of arrest associated with drug addiction. After six months, 60 percent of those who completed the LEAD program did not have a second arrest. In two years, that number only dropped two percent, with 58 percent of the program's graduates not having a subsequent arrest (this number does not include warrant arrests for previous crimes committed).