United States Senate Allocates $2.5 Million for LEAD, Innovative Program that Diverts Drug Users from Incarceration

Press Release August 2, 2017
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Michael Collins 404-539-6437</p>

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this release stated Denver is implementing LEAD, when in fact they are currently only applying for state funding.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that contains $2.5 million for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). The funding, which appears in legislation funding the Department of Justice, is recognition of the successes of the LEAD program across the country.

“LEAD is a critical program that recognizes that arrest and incarceration are not the way to treat drug use,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “This funding will be crucial in the expansion of LEAD.”

While the Senate bill includes funding, the House version does not, so advocates must work to make sure the final government funding bill includes the funding. The expectation is a bill will be passed before the end of September.

LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program that allows officers to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug activity to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution. LEAD participants begin working immediately with case managers to access services. LEAD’s goals are to reduce the harm a drug user may cause him or herself, as well as the harm that the individual may cause the surrounding community. This public safety program has demonstrated the potential to reduce recidivism rates for low-level offenders and preserve expensive criminal justice system resources.

In early June, Senators Warren (D-MA) and Capito (R-WV) spoke at a Congressional briefing on LEAD. Others speakers included representatives from LEAD programs in Baltimore, Washington, and West Virginia. A group of Senators also sent a letter, led by Warren, to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Commerce Justice and Science, Senators Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Shaheen (D-NH), requesting LEAD funding. Sens. Warren, Capito, Shelby and Shaheen are to be applauded for their role in securing funding.

“LEAD is a topic on which police and public health experts have found common ground. We've learned together that collaborating to engage people with substance use issues in community-based case management, and only using jail and prosecution when they are actually necessary and helpful, works better than other approaches,” said Lisa Daugaard, Director of the Seattle Public Defender Association. “It's great to see the spirit of collaboration to improve outcomes reflected in the Appropriations Committee vote to fund LEAD programs.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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