An innovative Seattle program called LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) represents a radical departure from the long prison sentences and court-ordered drug-treatment programs of the past 20 years, says the Seattle Times. In a break from the arrest-and-book status quo, LEAD cuts out the criminal-justice system and assigns participants to social workers. It is designed to offer immediate help — a hot meal, a warm coat, a safe place to sleep — as well as longer-term services for drug treatment, stable housing, and job training.
The aim of LEAD is to remove frequent fliers — those constantly arrested and rearrested on drug charges — from the criminal-justice system, said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, whose office helped create it. LEAD helps participants make lasting changes in their lives while recognizing that "drugs can have a powerful grip on a person," he said. "There are a lot of good people who lose their way to drugs who wouldn't otherwise be criminally oriented," and those are the people LEAD seeks to help, Satterberg said. Violent felons, people wanted on warrants and dealers caught carrying more than three grams of dope don't qualify. What makes the program so different from anything that's ever been tried in the U.S. is that front-line cops decide who gets in.