The Vespiary

Site => Harm Reduction Resources => Topic started by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on September 11, 2015, 11:36:23 AM

Title: L.E.A.D. (Alternative approach to costly failure of Drug Law Approach)
Post by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on September 11, 2015, 11:36:23 AM
source~~ Drug Policy Alliance [ hxxp:// ]

Many U.S. cities are taking steps to reduce the role
of criminalization in their local drug policies. Seattle, Washington has been at the forefront of this effort, pioneering a novel pre-booking diversion program for minor drug law violations known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Santa Fe, New Mexico and several other cities have begun exploring LEAD as a promising new strategy to improve public safety and health.

What is LEAD?
After a growing realization that Seattle’s existing approach to drug law enforcement was a costly failure, the city decided to take a different approach. In 2011, it instituted a pilot program known as “Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion,” or LEAD, the first pre-booking diversion program in the country. Instead of arresting and booking people for certain nonviolent offenses, including low-level drug possession and sales (of three grams or less), law enforcement in two Seattle-King County neighborhoods may immediately direct them to housing, treatment and other services.1

LEAD is a collaborative effort among the King County Prosecuting Attorney, Seattle City Attorney, Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff, King County Executive, Seattle Mayor, State Department of Corrections, Public Defender Association, ACLU of
Washington and the community.

Harm Reduction: A Core Principle of LEAD
LEAD is based on a commitment to “a harm reduction framework for all service provision.”2 Critically, LEAD does not require abstinence, and clients cannot be sanctioned for drug use or relapse. Instead, LEAD recognizes that drug misuse is a complex problem and people need to be reached where they currently are in their lives. Whether a person is totally abstinent from alcohol or other drugs matters far less than whether the problems associated with their drug misuse are getting better or not. Metrics like health, employment and family situation are far more important than the outcome of a drug test.

LEAD acknowledges this reality and incorporates these measures – instead of abstinence – into the program’s goals and evaluation, so that participants are not punished simply for failing a drug test. The program emphasizes “individual and community wellness, rather than an exclusive focus on sobriety.”3 Former Interim Police Chief James Pugel explains that LEAD’s “over-all philosophy is harm reduction…we know there may be relapse and falls.”4

“Other programs want you to jump through so many hoops. But when a person got an addiction, you got to get them some help…a roof over their head…LEAD helped me get back to my true self.”
– LEAD Participant.5

Perhaps most importantly, LEAD has precipitated a fundamental policy reorientation in Seattle-King County, from an “enforcement-first” approach, to a health-centered model – reinforced by specialized harm reduction training required of every police officer. When given the choice, Seattle police seem to prefer making referrals than making arrests. In this sense, LEAD is succeeding in changing law enforcement’s
mindset about public safety priorities.