Breaking the expensive rearrest cycle
September 22, 2015
US cities turn to counseling rather than incarceration to convert drug addicts from criminals to responsible citizens
When the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program was launched in Seattle in October 2011 as a pilot project, no one knew if it would work. The basic idea behind the initiative — that counseling can be more effective than incarceration in converting drug addicts from criminals to responsible citizens — isn’t new. Yet in one respect, it’s revolutionary. Seattle is asking officers to think about their work differently. Unlike with typical drug courts (which Seattle also has), the program makes the police responsible for decisions about cases, taking advantage of officers’ knowledge of the streets. Only a few dozen officers and about 250 offenders are participating in Seattle’s LEAD program. Still, it appears to be working, not just in that it’s reducing the number of crimes committed but also in that officers on the beat are beginning to see their jobs in a new way.