This is a pre-booking, community-based diversion program designed to divert those suspected of low-level drug and prostitution offenses away from jail and prosecution and into case management and other supportive services. The program is rated Promising. The intervention group was significantly less likely to have been arrested, compared with the control group, at the shorter- and longer-term follow ups. However, there was no significant impact on non-warrant arrests.
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is a pre-booking, community-based diversion program that was developed in Seattle, Washington. The program was designed to divert those suspected of low-level drug and prostitution offenses away from jail and prosecution and into case management, legal coordination, and other supportive services. The primary goal of LEAD is to reduce criminal recidivism. Other goals include reduction in legal and criminal-justice-service utilization and associated costs, as well as the improvement in psychosocial, housing, and quality-of-life outcomes.
LEAD participants are those suspected of committing recent narcotics and/or prostitution offenses. Individuals are screened by Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers for eligibility. The SPD considers individuals ineligible to participate if they meet any of the following criteria:
- The amount of drugs involved exceeds three grams.
- The individual does not appear amenable to diversion.
- The suspected drug activity involves delivery or possession with intent to deliver.
- The individual appears to exploit minors during the drug activity.
- The individual is suspected of promoting prostitution.
- The individual has a disqualifying criminal history (Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi 2015a, p. 7).
Individuals are diverted following arrest instead of undergoing standard jail booking and criminal prosecution. They are referred to a LEAD case manager to complete an intake assessment. The assessment includes items evaluating an individual’s substance-use frequency and treatment, time spent in housing, quality of life, psychological symptoms, interpersonal relationships, and health status.
After the intake process, LEAD participants receive case management through the Evergreen Treatment Services’ REACH homeless outreach program. Case management is provided, using a low-barrier, harm-reduction style; that is, case managers meet participants in their communities and engage them with compassion and positive regard. Participants are connected with existing resources in the community such as legal advocacy, job training or placement, housing assistance, and counseling.
Case managers can also access funds to provide financial support for a participant’s basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, and various other services. Other program components include coordination of prosecution strategy in any other pending criminal cases that participants have in local courts, and legal assistance with civil legal problems.
The LEAD program is a collaboration involving a number of organizations, including the Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project, the Seattle Police Department, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the King County Sherriff’s Office, the King County Executive, and the Washington State Department of Corrections.
Recidivism at Shorter-Term Follow Up
Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi (2015) found the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program group was significantly less likely to have been arrested, compared with the control group. Six months following program involvement, 36 percent of the LEAD group had been rearrested, compared with 59 percent of the control group. This indicated that participation in the LEAD program lowered the odds of rearrest by 57 percent. However, there was no significant difference between groups on non-warrant rearrests at the 6-month follow up.
Recidivism at Longer-Term Follow Up
Over the course of the evaluation (October 1, 2009 to July 31, 2014), the LEAD group was significantly less likely to have been rearrested, compared with the control group. Over the course of the evaluation, 58 percent of the LEAD group had at least one rearrest subsequent to program entry, compared with 80 percent of the control group. This indicated participation in the LEAD program lowered the odds of rearrest by 56 percent. However, there was no significant difference between groups on non-warrant rearrests during the longer-term follow up.
Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi (2015) conducted a quasi-experimental study to examine the shorter- and longer-term recidivism outcomes for participants who were involved in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, as compared with those in the “system-as-usual” control group.
For the evaluation, Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer shifts for squads making referrals to LEAD were randomly divided into red- and greenlight shifts. The LEAD group (n=203) included individuals who were encountered by SPD officers during greenlight shifts in the LEAD catchment area (the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle). They were screened for eligibility and diverted to the LEAD program (if they were eligible and completed the intake process). The LEAD group also included social contacts, which were individuals eligible for the program due to known recent criminal activity, but were recruited by officers outside of a criminal incident during a greenlight shift within the catchment area. The control group (n=115) included individuals who were arrested during redlight shifts, or in non-LEAD neighborhoods (i.e., areas adjacent to Belltown that were not part of the LEAD program, but were patrolled by the same officers). Control group participants were processed through the criminal justice system as usual (i.e., jail booking, criminal charges).
All participants were recruited by the same officers using the same criteria. Propensity score weighting was used to balance and match the LEAD group and control group. The study authors used two weighting variables: one for estimating average treatment effect (ATE) and one for estimating the average treatment effect for treated participants (ATT). For this CrimeSolutions.gov review, the focus was on the analysis related to the ATT.
The LEAD group was 39 percent female, with an average age of 41. The race/ethnicity of LEAD participants included African American/black (55 percent), white (27 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native/Pacific Islander (6 percent), Hispanic/Latino (5 percent), Asian American (less than 1 percent), more than one race (4 percent), and other (1 percent). The control group was 26 percent female, with an average age of 37. The race/ethnicity of participants included African American/black (68 percent), white (25 percent), Hispanic/Latino (1 percent), Asian American (3 percent), and more than one race (3 percent). The groups differed on age, race/ethnicity and gender. Therefore, propensity score weighting was used including these covariates.
The primary outcome of interest was recidivism, measured as new arrests. Data was collected from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. New arrests referred to having been taken into police custody for a crime committed during the LEAD program evaluation timeframe. New arrests did not include parole or probation violations, or arrests due to violations prior to entering the program. Arrests for new law violations were examined separately from warrant arrests pursuant to incidents occurring after participants entered the study.
The evaluation examined the impact of the LEAD program on recidivism outcomes over the shorter term (i.e., 6 months prior and 6 months subsequent to program involvement) and the longer term (i.e., encompassing 2 years prior to the LEAD start date–October 1, 2009 through July 31, 2014). The longer-term analyses involved unequal windows of time for participants that started and ended the program at different times. This was statistically controlled for in the longer-term models. The data was analyzed using generalized estimating equations.
Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi (2015b) examined the effect of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program on criminal justice and legal system utilization (i.e., jail, prison, prosecution, and defense) and the associated costs. Across all outcomes, LEAD participants showed statistically significant reductions in systems utilization and costs. Compared to the control group, the LEAD group had 1.4 fewer jail bookings, 39 fewer days in jail, and 87 percent lower odds of at least one prison incarceration subsequent to evaluation entry. These reductions in utilization translated into cost savings. From pre- to postevaluation entry, LEAD participants showed substantial cost reductions (-$2100), whereas control participants showed cost increases (+$5961).
Over the first 29 months of implementation, the LEAD program costs were approximately $899 per participant per month (or $10,787 per participant per year). The initial start-up costs per person during the first month of the program were $24,275, but decreased to $532 per person by the 29th month of operation. This decrease in program costs was due to greater recruitment of participants, more efficiency in client assistance spending, and the expansion in Medicaid as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi 2015b).
Approximately 40 officers (of 1,300 in the Seattle Police Department) were involved in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. LEAD officers received focused instructions and training to apply the inclusion/exclusion criteria to identify possible program participants.
In addition, various stakeholders involved in the LEAD program spent significant time developing a protocol to guide program operations. The protocol described the procedures by which LEAD officers should refer people to the program, and by which LEAD participants are engaged by social service providers (for more information, see Beckett 2014, pp. 9–13).
Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)
Collins, Lonczak, and Clifasefi (2016) tested within-subjects changes on housing, employment and income/benefits outcomes for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) participants from the month prior to their program referral through the 18-month follow-up. Compared to their baseline status, findings indicated that LEAD participants were over twice as likely to be sheltered, 89 percent more likely to be housed, 46 percent more likely to be on the employment continuum (i.e., in vocational training, employed in the legitimate market, retired), and 33 percent more likely to have legitimate income/benefits at the follow-up. Additional analyses indicated that each contact with a LEAD case manager was associated with a 5 percent higher likelihood of being housed at follow-up.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Beckett, Katherine. 2014. Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program: Lessons Learned from the First Two Years
. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington, Law, Societies & Justice Program and Department of Sociology.http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1185392/24777541/1398287318543/2014-Lead-Process-Evaluation.pdf?token=%2B7pBJHMxRat4s2O%2F7J7eEy1I67o%3D
Collins, Susan E., Heather S. Lonczak, and Seema L. Clifasefi. 2015b. LEAD Program Evaluation: Criminal Justice and Legal System Utilization and Associated Costs
. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington–Harborview Medical Center, Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Lab.http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1185392/26401889/1437170937787/June+2015+LEAD-Program-Evaluation-Criminal-Justice-and-Legal-System-Utilization-and-Associated-Costs.pdf
Collins, Susan E., Heather S. Lonczak, and Seema L. Clifasefi. 2016. LEAD Program Evaluation: Impact on Housing, Employment and Income/Benefits Outcomes
. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington–Harborview Medical Center, Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Lab.http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1185392/27047605/1464389327667/housing_employment_evaluation_final.PDF?token=J65k05f8n7Js86G5r6lsPgujOog%3D