The special LEAD program helps people stay out of the criminal justice system

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, MD – Officials recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the Howard County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program. The program, which has had a 91% success rate, offers people who are involved in minor mental health and addiction crimes the chance to be redirected to social services instead of entering the system of criminal justice after an encounter with a law. enforcement officer.

“The LEAD program has proven successful because of its less punitive, more effective, and public health-based approach,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said at a news conference. “It remains our responsibility, as a community, to constantly evaluate and improve our public safety systems and ensure that we are delivering the best possible results to the residents of our community. With this program, we are changing the way criminal behaviors related to problematic substance use, mental illness, chronic homelessness, poverty, and other health and wellness issues are addressed.

In partnership with the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services and the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland now has nine fully operational LEAD sites, including one in Howard County.

Prosecutors and police work closely with case managers to ensure that all contacts with LEAD participants in the future, including new criminal prosecutions for other offenses, are coordinated with the service plan. for the participant to maximize the possibility of achieving behavior change and reducing future criminal activity. The individual will receive a wide range of support services including but not limited to housing referrals, benefits navigation, primary care liaison, mental health and recovery resources as well as vocational training opportunities.

“Since launching the LEAD program here in Howard County, we have been able to reduce recidivism, improve public health and safety for LEAD participants and their communities, and redirect our prosecution efforts toward more serious crimes,” State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said. . “These goals could not have been achieved without close collaboration between our partner agencies who are deeply committed to the continued success of this program.”

In certain misdemeanor cases that meet the appropriate criteria, Howard County Police can now divert an individual to comprehensive case management services and peer recovery support instead of the criminal justice system cycle. LEAD is currently implemented by the Community Outreach Division and Neighborhood Community Resource Officers within the HCPD. These officers are uniquely qualified to operate with a high level of discretion due to their extensive training and existing relationships within the communities they serve.

“In Howard County, we are focused on the benefits of restorative justice and recognize the value of reducing interactions with the criminal justice system, whenever possible,” the county police chief said. Howard, Gregory Der. “It’s reassuring to know that with these LEAD referrals, our agents can provide direct access to addiction treatment, mental health care, housing services, employment options and peer support.”

LEAD is an evidence-based systems approach that began in Seattle, Washington, in 2011. There are now 52 LEAD initiatives across the country with more than 17 additional programs launched nationwide. According to the LEAD national office, the program reduced recidivism for its participants by 58% and resulted in average savings of about $3,000 for each LEAD participant compared to the “usual system” approach.

“Last fall, I had contact with Constable Cortez, from the Howard County Police Department. He offered me a chance to get services through the LEAD program. I was able to get medical care and help with housing, thanks to my LEAD case manager,” said LEAD program participant Manzy Brunson. “Thanks to LEAD, I was able to avoid legal problems, including jail , for more than 9 months. I continue to work every day and am a better husband because of the changes I have made.