This week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion co-authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program. LEAD works to halt the revolving door of criminal justice involvement for residents who are chronically homeless, mentally ill, or experiencing a substance abuse disorder and, instead, provides alternatives that enhance public safety. The action follows a pilot program, launched last year, which resulted in a significant reduction in arrests and homelessness.
LEAD is a national model community diversion program that works to reduce recidivism and increase public safety by giving law enforcement agencies the tools to engage with people who have committed low-level criminal offenses. Law enforcement can offer these individuals access to housing, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and supportive services instead of arrest.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion said, “The County’s LEAD pilot program has demonstrated how smart and targeted interventions can reduce incarceration and homelessness. For many people, the LEAD program can end the revolving door from jail to homelessness and back to reincarceration. It is exactly the type of long-term solution we need to expand so we can reduce the number of people on our streets and in our jails.”
The Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry, in collaboration with the City of Long Beach, County agencies, community organizations, and community members, has successfully launched a pilot LEAD program, enrolling 109 participants in its first ten months of operation. Of these 109 participants, 83% were homeless at the time they entered the program. 26 are now in interim housing or inpatient substance use treatment programs, and 16 have moved into supportive permanent housing. On September 1, LEAD partnered with a community provider and opened its first dedicated interim housing site for women.
The LEAD pilot program in North Long Beach and South LA, including the City of Compton and surrounding areas, has shown promise and helped reduce unnecessary incarceration and related public expense. At a time when the County is facing both a homelessness crisis and an incarceration crisis, it is crucial to expand innovative and successful solutions for getting people off the streets, out of jail, and into housing and treatment programs that can help them get on the right track. The motion adopted this week seeks to accomplish this by expanding the LEAD Program to other high-need areas of Los Angeles.
“By working on multiple fronts to prioritize rehabilitation over incarceration, LA County is a national leader in criminal justice reform,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored the motion. “The LEAD program provides expansive tools to engage and help the justice-involved population. The expansion of the LEAD program directly addresses the causes of crime and elevates the broader needs of the individual, the family, and the community.”
A recent evaluation of the LEAD program conducted in Seattle, Washington shows promising results that the County aims to emulate. Researchers found that LEAD participants are 60% less likely to be arrested in the six months after entering the LEAD program compared to a control group, 58% less likely to be arrested over the next two years, 89% more likely to find housing 6 months following enrollment, and 56% more likely to have employment or enroll in vocational training. In addition to diverting low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system and into services by providing rehabilitative opportunities, the LEAD program avoided creating additional obstacles to accessing housing and benefits, which can be difficult to obtain when one has a criminal record.