top of page


LEAD® in the News 

Don’t Lock ’Em Up. Give ’Em a Chance to Quit Drugs.

New York Times - October 26, 2016

That afternoon in the Seattle garage turned out differently for Vasquez because he was stopped in a precinct that was piloting a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD. The initiative, which started in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in 2011, empowers officers to divert low-level offenders from the criminal justice system into drug treatment and other social services. It’s based on a harm reduction philosophy, which seeks to minimize the damage associated with drug use and considers medical care and counseling more effective interventions than punishment, and it is spreading, with a dozen other jurisdictions either adopting it or preparing to do so.

How New York's capital avoided becoming 'a flaming city' after police killed a mentally ill, unarmed black man

Business Insider - October 30, 2016

But unlike in Baltimore weeks later, the city avoided becoming “a flaming city,” as Dannielle Hille, a prominent community organizer in Albany, told Business Insider, because of extensive efforts by police and community to repair a long-strained relationship.

Here are 3 things Maine can do to combat the drug epidemic

Bangor Daily - October 24, 2016

With drug-related deaths and arrests on the rise, police, mayors and health care professionals urged lawmakers last week to fund a program to divert drug offenders from jails and courts into treatment and recovery programs to break the cycle of addiction.

The proposal lawmakers are considering would create eight pilot projects across the state based on the law enforcement assisted diversion, or LEAD, program model in which people arrested on low-level drug offenses are given the chance to enter treatment for addiction instead of a jail cell.

Commentary: LEAD program crucial to easing drug addiction’s grip on Maine

Portland Press Herald - September 15, 2016

AUGUSTA —The focus is on prevention and treatment to help substance abusers take back their lives rather than go to jail. 

Portland to launch new program that allows drug offenders option for treatment

KPTV - August 4, 2016

PORTLAND, OR -Multnomah County's top cop is pushing a kinder, gentler approach to Portland's drug problem.

District Attorney Rod Underhill is preparing to launch the city's new LEAD program, which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. The program is modeled after a program with the same name that was implemented in Seattle in 2011, and has yielded positive results.

Low-level drug offenders find new source of addiction help

Fox News - April 11, 2016

Following a White House summit about Seattle's program last summer, dozens of cities are considering whether to follow suit. Santa Fe, New Mexico, launched its version in 2014. Albany began its pilot program this month, and Baltimore, Atlanta and Fayetteville, North Carolina, are expected to launch versions next year.

Albany launches LEAD diversion program

Times Union - March 16, 2016

Alice Green shook her head in amazement at former adversaries gathered — black and white, cops and activists, prosecutors and social workers — to announce a new collaboration that will divert low-level criminals away from jail and into treatment services for addiction and mental illness.

Pre-arrest diversion programs could have saved Michael Marshall

Colorado Independent - March 4, 2016

 An extensive evaluation of the innovative LEAD model shows it also lowers prosecution and incarceration numbers while simultaneously reducing recidivism. This cuts down on criminal justice costs, saving taxpayer money while improving quality of life among participants and bolstering police/community relations. It’s a win for virtually all stakeholders—except maybe the private prison industry and beneficiaries of policing for profit.

Seattle's 'Radical Approach' To Heroin Epidemic Featured On PBS Documentary

KNKX - February 23, 2016

LEAD gives police the option of connecting addicts who are arrested for petty crimes with treatment, housing and social services instead of sending them to jail. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the program grew out of a unique collaboration between prosecutors, defense attorneys, police and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Police urge Maine lawmakers to help put drug users in treatment, not jail

Press Herald - February 28, 2016

AUGUSTA — Mayors and police chiefs from across Maine urged lawmakers Thursday to help break the cycle of drug addiction and incarceration by funding a program to allow police to “divert” drug users away from the jails and toward treatment.

“We need to make a change in this state,” said Brewer Police Chief Perry Antone Sr. “If not, we need to be prepared to read obituaries.”

Law enforcement's new approach to addiction in Baltimore

Baltimore Sun - December 28, 2015

After decades of a failed war on drugs, consensus finally seems to be shifting toward a more sensible approach to drugs and addiction, one that uses a public health model as opposed to a criminal justice one.

Decriminalizing Drugs: When Treatment Replaces Prison

New York Times - December 8, 2015

Cities all over the country are copying Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, in which police officers put low-level drug offenders into treatment and social services instead of jail. It is hard to imagine Congress decriminalizing drugs, but easy to imagine that soon, any debate at the national level may be irrelevant.

How Some Cities Are Helping Drug Offenders Instead of Arresting Them

Vice - December 2, 2015

A man is stopped by the police. He has seven grams of crack, and is selling it on the street. He's black. The cop asks him a series of questions, ending with, "Would you like some assistance with the problems that led you to selling drugs on the street today?" In this case, "assistance" doesn't mean a jail sentence, but a case manager that can offer help finding the man housing, a job, health care, and substance abuse treatment. 

LEAD offers 'sliver of hope' to some in trouble with the law

Canton Rep - November 24, 2015

“It gives officers more choices to solve problems,” said Canton Police Chief Bruce Lawver. “And really, on these types of offenses and the type of people in these life situations, is arresting them the best solution or is diversion a better possibility?

Seattle LEAD Program to Keep Offenders Out of Jail Draws Nationwide Interest

Wall Street Journal - July 20, 2015

SEATTLE—This city’s program giving street-level police the option to send repeat nonviolent offenders to social-service programs instead of jail has been embraced by the White House and is drawing interest from officials across the country.

How Seattle is upending everything we think about how cops do their job

Washington Post - July 2, 2015

"It's an incredibly thoughtful approach they’re taking," said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C., a research organization and advocate of new approaches to policing. "This represents a really fundamental change in the way police departments view their role in helping to solve really pressing social problems."

The Seattle model Ithaca may use to shatter drug-jail cycle

Ithaca Voice - May 22, 2015

ITHACA, N.Y. — Police officers get more time to investigate major crimes. Arrest totals fall. Recidivism rates among the chronically homeless plummet by close to 60 percent.

And a city’s mostly poor, low-level offenders — those who struggle most with cycles of crime and poverty — get a shot at a new life.

America’s War On Drugs Has Failed. This Program Might Be The Solution.

Huffington Post - May 7, 2015

For more than 20 years, Kevin* lived in a parking garage in downtown Seattle. Homeless and addicted to crack, he had been arrested dozens of times for trespassing, drug activity and low-level property crimes. 

“He was a fixture in the neighborhood,” Lisa Daugaard, a Seattle-based public defender familiar with Kevin’s case, told The Huffington Post. “Everyone thought he would die in that garage.”

Then, three years ago, authorities decided to try something different.

Seattle's sensible approach puts drug offenders into treatment, not jail

The Guardian - March 25, 2015

The influential Law-Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or Lead, program is making waves in criminal justice circles – and it could be coming to other US cities

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion: An Alternative to Mass Incarceration

ACS - March 20, 2015

The United States now has more incarcerated citizens both in raw numbers and per capita than any other nation on Earth. One way to immediately begin addressing the daunting issue of criminal justice reform generally – and mass incarceration specifically – is to divert eligible low-level offenders away from the criminal justice process entirely. The program is called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), and one of its many objectives is to transform and transcend the relationship between police and the residents they serve into something more positive and less adversarial. The idea began in Seattle and has also taken root in Santa Fe. 

City Launches LEAD Putting Santa Fe in Proactive Spotlight

Santa Fe - May 5, 2014

The Santa Fe Police Department receives national attention as the department along with multiple community stakeholders launch Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD.

Santa Fe: New program targets cycle of addiction and arrest in

Santa Fe New Mexican - February 9, 2014

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, a new program approved by the City Council on Jan. 29 after a year of study, may finally give Santa Fe police Capt. Jerome Sanchez Sanchez a chance to help some of these offenders break the cycle of addiction and arrest.

Please reload

Bureau Announcements  

Atlanta and Fulton County Join Forces to Design Innovative New Public Safety Initiative

New initiative launched at community event offers solutions instead of punishment for residents struggling with mental illness, drug addiction & poverty 

New National Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Project Launches to Support Cities and Counties Across the U.S. in Improving Public Safety and Public Health

Today, the Public Defender Association and the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice ‎announced the formation of the LEAD National Support Bureau‎ as a‎ response to the increasing national demand for support of much needed, evidence-based alternatives to the normal – and broken -- criminal justice system cycle.

Please reload

bottom of page