WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal scored a victory for the Seattle-based Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program by securing funding to expand the initiative nationwide.
Last September, Jayapal led 10 members of Congress in urging the House Appropriations Committee to allocate $2.5 million to the program. She continued to build support for LEAD funding, working with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and corralled four other Republican members and 10 Democrats to join her in another letter with the same request. Earlier this month, in another push, Jayapal sent a third request urging support in 2019 appropriations with the backing of 22 members.
The House appropriators granted Jayapal’s request in this year’s funding bill, which passed the house on March 22, 2018.
“I am so proud to support this powerful, Seattle-created program and to see it take off at a national level.” said Jayapal.“Instead of unnecessarily putting low-level offenders in the criminal justice system, LEAD pairs program participants with casework services and treatment resources to ensure they get the help they need. It is heartless and simply impossible to arrest our way out of crises like the opioid epidemic – innovative, evidence-based treatment solutions like LEAD are the way we will make positive change. We’ve seen the results: LEAD works, and I’m excited that now more states across the nation than ever before will have robust federal support in launching LEAD programs.
LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program that allows law enforcement officers to exercise their discretionary authority to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drugs or prostitution activity to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution. LEAD began as the result of a collaboration among diverse stakeholders ranging from law enforcement to the American Civil Liberties Union and community members. Upon enrollment, program participants immediately begin working with case managers to access services. LEAD is a public safety program that focuses on self-harm reduction, and has demonstrated the potential to reduce recidivism rates for low-level offenders and preserve expensive criminal justice system resources.
The LEAD program has undergone a rigorous, two-year evaluation by the University of Washington. The evaluation concluded that LEAD participants were up to 60 percent less likely to reoffend, and the evaluation saw demonstrated improvements in the health and wellbeing of participants.
Since the program’s inception, LEAD-modeled programs have appeared across the country. Currently, 31 states are either exploring, developing, launching or operating a LEAD program including, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.