Thoughts on Expanding LEAD

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a pre-arrest and pre-booking diversion program. It was developed by community members, criminal justice system stakeholders and reformers, public health and social service experts, and elected officials to address non-violent law violations. LEAD enables law enforcement officers to redirect individuals engaged in law violations arising primarily from behavioral health conditions such as substance use or mental health issues to community-based services instead of using legal sanctions like arrest and jail.

This is a program we support.

Burien residents who have committed low-level offenses, especially the young, often become ensnared into a broken judicial system which hardens them to a life of greater crime. The LEAD website lists several positive outcomes from this approach.

However, as I read through the LEAD website, I found myself troubled. It represents LEAD as a government and nonprofit organization operating apart from community involvement. There is almost no reference to the engagement of the Burien community in the intervention and restoration process of the LEAD concept.

Individuals suffering from mental health issues and homelessness do not heal alone. Yet when these individuals commit nonviolent crimes, we isolate them further within the judicial system. LEAD provides a tool to reverse this trend. However, this cannot be accomplished if LEAD is not consistently and actively partnering with a diversity of community partners. For non-violent offenders experiencing complex issues to heal, they need to experience healing through the support and advocacy of their own community. LEAD could be an avenue to link members of the community to walk alongside offenders as they reintegrate back into their system of support (family, clubs, places of faith, recreation communities). To increase the efficacy of LEAD, the people of Burien need an opportunity for partnership.

Practically, this entails comprehensive support and collaboration from a diverse range of community organizations, faith communities, and community partners. LEAD states a need for robust case management services for these individuals. LEAD would highly benefit from increasing their networking and partnership with daily interaction, support, and collaboration from Burien organizations, community members, and advocates to pull those suffering in the margins into places and systems of support already established within Burien. To experience healing, nonviolent offenders should not be taken out of their communities into further isolation but rather drawn back into supportive communal systems of care.

Crime, addiction, homelessness are most often outcomes of a broken family and social relationships. People become isolated, enter into a dysfunctional social system, and suffer devastating outcomes. If the core of these complex issues is unhealthy social relationships, then why are the citizens in healthy communities where families live, work, and play not included in the network offered to these offenders?

I propose that the LEAD idea should be expanded in our city to keep more of our youth out of the judicial system and channeled into a healthy community. As a resident of Burien for 26 years, a member of the faith community, and one of the founders of Transform Burien and as a hopeful Burien City Council member, I would like to help bridge LEAD with those who live, work, and play our city. Our troubled youth need the social capital that will provide them with the tools for a meaningful and productive life.

We want the stories of young lives on the brink of spiraling down changed into stories of success, health, and joy on every page and wall in our city.

This is the kind of leadership that Burien is destined to take as the Gem of the Sound.

More information at https://votemartinbarrett.com.

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