LEAD:  Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion

Police departments play a critical role in dealing with trauma firsthand.  As first responders to crime scenes, disturbances, and domestic disputes, it’s critical that they are aware of how trauma and adverse childhood experiences can lead to substance abuse, suicide, mental and physical health issues and criminal behavior. Additionally, there is a significant body of evidence that suggests that people who are incarcerated are significantly more likely to commit multiple crimes versus those that aren’t.  Information like this has led police departments all over the country to look for alternatives to incarceration.

In addition to taking part in the training sponsored by BHSB, the Baltimore Police Department is embarking on a program called LEAD, short for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion.  Modeled after a successful implementation of the program in Seattle, Washington, the Baltimore Police Department is targeting January 2017 for program launch.

The LEAD program encourages police officers to divert or redirect individuals with low-level drug or prostitution offenses to support services.  By diverting individuals to community-based programs for help with treatment, housing, health care, job-training and mental health support, the program is built upon one of the foundations of trauma informed care, do no harm.

By avoiding a criminal record, jail time, and court fees, individuals can get assistance with addressing the root cause of their problems thus avoiding retraumatization with the extremely negative and often career ending impact of incarceration and a criminal record.  The program’s goal is to improve public safety, reduce criminal behavior, and avoid the costs associated with multiple arrests and incarcerations.

Notably, evaluations of the Seattle program, conducted by the University of Washington, have demonstrated positive results. Specifically, over the entire course of the evaluation, LEAD program participants were found to be 58 percent less likely to commit another offense than people who went through the normal process (the control group) based on a recidivism study published in March 2015. Further, a June 2015 cost evaluation study found a “statistically significant and operationally meaningful reduction in cost associated with criminal justice and legal system utilization” for LEAD program participants versus a control group who went through the normal process.

We are excited about seeing something like this happen in Baltimore.  We are looking forward to updating this page with actual data from Baltimore’s program!

Baltimore is Using Seattle's LEAD Program as a Model