Three-hundred low-level, nonviolent offenders will have the chance to avoid jail and improve their lives under a program starting this month that includes the District Attorney’s Office.
In the pilot program, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Long Beach police officers will identify offenders and offer them a chance to enroll for housing, addiction treatment and other services instead of being taken to court or jail. The program is called Los Angeles County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD).
District Attorney Jackie Lacey has championed the use of effective diversion programs to improve public safety and break the cycle of recidivism in the justice system.
“LEAD is part of an ongoing effort to devote more resources to programs that change how the criminal justice system addresses low-level offenders with drug addiction and mental health issues,” District Attorney Lacey said. “We want previously tested programs that provide long-term solutions to reducing recidivism.”
The pilot program, funded by a $5.9 million grant from the California’s Board of State and Community Corrections, is based on a model used in Seattle.
In LEAD, eligible offenders are sent directly to case managers for housing assistance and other services.
A working group will meet biweekly to review cases and provide guidance to participants so they stay on track and out of the criminal justice system.
Deputy District Attorney Edwin Wakabayashi is the office’s point person for this program and observed how it works in Seattle.
He said it can take time before behavioral changes are made. The working groups he observed had detailed discussions on the progress or regression of individual participation, such as whether a participant continues to use drugs.
Unlike some court-based drug rehabilitation programs, participants do not graduate but continue with the program unless they are disqualified or choose to leave, Wakabayashi said.
The pilot program focuses on a five-mile corridor running from Artesia Boulevard to the 105 Freeway near the Los Angeles River and includes sections of North Long Beach, Lynwood and Compton.
Other participating agencies include the county Office of Diversion and Re-entry, the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, the Alternate Public Defender’s Office and other social service providers.