U.S.: Reps From 30+ Cities To Meet On Innovative Approach To Low-Level Drug Offenses

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LEAD Established Unique Collaboration Among Law Enforcement, Human Service Agencies, Business Leaders, and Community Members to Produce Nearly 60% Reduction in Recidivism in Seattle

Wednesday: Convening Hosted by Major Foundations and Seattle Police Department

Thursday: Convening Co-Hosted by Major Foundations and The White House

This week, government officials and community leaders from more than 30 city, county and state jurisdictions will gather to discuss an innovative program that brings together diverse stakeholders seeking to achieve better outcomes in public health and safety by diverting people from jail to services.

The program, known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, was pioneered in Seattle. Under LEAD, police divert individuals who commit low-level drug offenses to harm reduction based case management services. An independent evaluation found that it reduced the likelihood of reoffending by nearly 60 percent compared to a control group that went through the criminal justice system “as usual.”

LEAD’s successes and positive evaluations have sparked widespread attention and interest, especially in a moment when the police role in dealing with “quality of life” issues is controversial and the way forward after the War On Drugs is uncertain.

In 2014, Santa Fe, New Mexico, became the second jurisdiction to replicate LEAD. Last week, Albany, NY became the third jurisdiction to sign a memorandum of understanding to build a LEAD program. Numerous other jurisdictions around the country – from small cities to major metropolitan areas – are now exploring implementing LEAD.

The National Convening kicks off on July 1 with a panel discussion and reception, open to the public. On July 2, select jurisdictions will attend an all-day, invitation-only training, hosted by The White House.

What: Discussion of LEAD model, followed by Reception

When: 4:00 –7:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 1st

Location: Hotel Palomar, Washington, D.C.

Who: White House Staff and representatives from the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff's Office, Ford Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Public Defender Association, and the Drug Policy Alliance

LEAD, which offers jurisdictions an alternative to the failed War On Drugs approach, is a unique collaboration between multiple stakeholders – including the police, district attorneys, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers and other service agencies, the business community, public defenders, elected officials and community leaders.

"Nationally, there's been controversy about tensions that arise when police officers are sent to deal with so called 'quality of life' issues arising from addiction, homelessness and untreated mental illness," said Lisa Daugaard, policy director for the Public Defender Association in Seattle. “What's been missing in these debates is an acknowledgment that officers need options other than arrest and jail, to respond appropriately and humanely to these situations. LEAD is a first step toward giving officers tools that make sense when they're asked to deal with what are really public health issues.”

After three years of operation in Seattle, a new, independent evaluation has shown that LEAD reduces the number of people arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and otherwise caught up in the criminal justice system. The University of Washington evaluation found that LEAD participants were 60 percent less likely to be rearrested within the first six months of the study and 58 percent less likely to be rearrested during the entire course of the evaluation to date, compared to a control group that experienced “system as usual” booking and prosecution.

This result is particularly encouraging based on the high re-arrest rate for this population under the traditional criminal justice model.

“Across the country, there’s a strong and growing bi-partisan consensus that it’s time to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration,” said gabriel sayegh, managing director of Policy and Campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Jurisdictions from the city, county, state and the federal level are exploring innovative approaches to advance community health and public safety. With this national convening about LEAD, representatives from around the country are coming together to learn about LEAD and the principles that guide it.”

Policy leaders from across the country will be at the briefing to study the program and to discuss how to best implement it in their jurisdictions.