New program aims to help low level offenders instead of locking them up

When you commit a crime, you do the time.

But that wouldn’t be the case with a new pilot program.

The program is called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD.

The goal is to break the cycle of people going to jail multiple times by getting them the help they need.

This ranges from certain social services to help in dealing with addiction.

City Councilmember Carol Fukunaga introduced a resolution Wednesday advocating for the implementation of the LEAD program which stands for law enforcement assisted diversion.

Heather Lusk, Executive Director of the Chow Project and advocate for LEAD says the chinatown neighborhood board has already voted unanimously that want the program to start in their community. “What it does is it helps people with behavioral health problems, specifically people struggling with addiction and mental illness. When that is the route of their offending it diverts them from the criminal justice system at the point of law-enforcement and gets them into social services if they want to.”

According to Lusk, LEAD helps put certain offenders into community based services, which can actually save the state money.

It’s shown to be more effective than repeated arrests.

Cities around the country have already implemented the program, like Seattle Washington, where Lusk says people in the program were 58 percent less likely to be arrested after completing LEAD. “What this does is take the burden of mental health out of criminal justice and place it where it should be which is with social service providers that have that expertise.”

Lusk Says over 60 percent of people arrested by HPD in 2015 had either a substance abuse or mental health condition.

UH Law professor Ken Lawson is familiar with programs like LEAD, saying they can give people a second chance. “I have been an addict, I have been to prison and I went to prison because of my addiction to painkillers and opiates, and so to go to treatment as an alternative and once that’s treated I’m not committing crimes anymore. It will free up and unclog a lot of our prison system, and it allows people to get a second chance at life.”


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