Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is a community-based police diversion approach to addressing those involved in the criminal justice system because of addiction, mental illness, and poverty. In LEAD, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs.
In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle - booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration - individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment.
LEAD was developed from a growing consensus that the war on drugs has failed and that it has disproportionately and unjustly hurt communities of color. In Seattle, individuals diverted into LEAD were up to 60% less likely to be re-arrested.
Background on LEAD
In 2016, in an attempt to move away from the War on Drugs paradigm and to reduce gross racial disparities in police enforcement, LEAD® - a new harm-reduction oriented process for responding to low-level drug, alcohol and mental illness based offenses - was adopted and launched in Albany, New York.
An memorandum of understanding was signed by community stakeholders ensuring collaboration between:
- Business and neighborhood leaders
- Civil rights advocates
- District attorney
- Housing providers
- Mental health and drug treatment providers
- Political leaders
- Public defenders
All involved agreed to work together to find new ways to solve problems for individuals who frequently cycle in and out of the criminal justice system.
- Reorient government's response to safety, disorder and health-related problems
- Improve public safety and public health through research-based, health-oriented, and harm reduction interventions
- Reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system for low-level offenses related to drug use, mental health, sex work, and extreme poverty
- Undo racial disparities at the front-end of the criminal justice system
- Sustain funding for alternative interventions by capturing and reinvesting criminal justice system savings
- Strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community
Albany LEAD Data
- Press Release: APD Receives Grant to Aid Implementation of Innovative LEAD Program to Address Root Cause of Crimes
- Times Union article: Albany LEAD Program Receives $890K Grant - October 17, 2020
- Times Union article: New Approach to Drug Crime Gains National Attention - May 6, 2018
- John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety - Albany LEAD Process Evaluation