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Earlier today, researchers at the University of Washington released promising results from an LJAF-funded study of Seattle’s innovative Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. Through LEAD, officers in two Seattle neighborhoods can divert low-level drug and prostitution offenders to the care of case managers, social workers, and drug treatment officers without filing charges against them.

This alternative to arrest model represents a unique attempt by a police department to divert offenders from the criminal justice system when they first become involved with the system. Significantly, today’s report found that individuals diverted to LEAD were far less likely to be rearrested than similar defendants who had been processed as usual through the criminal justice system. The study found that, compared with a control group, LEAD participants had 60 percent lower odds of being rearrested in the first six months after entry into the evaluation, and 58 percent lower odds of being rearrested over the entire course of the study, which analyzed data from October 2009 through July 2014.

LEAD — which was developed through a partnership among prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement, and elected and community leaders — has already drawn attention from jurisdictions across the country who are investigating whether alternatives to arrest could reduce crime among lower-level repeat offenders and improve system efficiency (or reduce costs). LJAF supported an evaluation of LEAD because the program shows promise as an innovative model that could potentially be scaled to other jurisdictions.

The results released today are extremely promising; however, as is often the case with innovative programs, additional research remains to be done. In particular, it will be important to determine whether similar reductions in recidivism are observed elsewhere in the country.

Later this year, the researchers will release two additional LJAF-funded reports, which will assess LEAD’s impact on the use of criminal justice system resources and the health-related quality of life of individuals in the program.