The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program started out as a pilot program in Seattle. The program was quite successful and is now being used by some counties in California. LEAD was developed as a solution to low-level drug and prostitution crimes. It is designed to rehabilitate a certain group of non-violent offenders instead of sending them straight to prison. The program started as a pilot experiment in which 203 participants were randomly selected over four years. It is offered to offenders that are arrested in possession of 3 grams of illegal drugs or less, have no history of violent criminal offenses, and are not involved in promotion of prostitution or exploiting minors for drug sales. So far the LEAD program has reduced the likelihood of repeat arrests for those that participated in the initial program.
What exactly is LEAD?
LEAD is a diversion program. Diversion programs are designed to minimize the negative effects that are connected with drug crimes, such as homelessness and the inability to obtain gainful employment. The program replaces incarceration with rehabilitation. LEAD “cuts out the criminal justice system and assigns voluntary participants to case workers who can provide immediate help – a hot meal, a warm coat, a safe place to sleep – as well as longer-term services for drug treatment, stable housing, and job training. Services are individually tailored and relapses are expected.” LEAD is a pre-booking program, which means that it occurs before you are formally charged for a drug crime. Unlike the existing diversion programs in California, LEAD operates by transferring offenders immediately to case management instead of going through the court or prison system.