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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: LEAD is succeeding, study shows

4/8/2015  1:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

City Attorney Pete Holmes joined other government officials, law enforcement agencies and community leaders Wednesday in announcing that the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, operating in Seattle and King County, is successfully reducing recidivism rates for people who participate in it.

In LEAD, instead of arresting low-level drug and prostitution suspects and prosecuting them, law enforcement officers divert them to community-based services – including housing, healthcare, job training, treatment and mental health support. In contrast to most criminal justice system approaches, LEAD uses harm reduction principles. Case managers set goals with participants that are meaningful to them and reduce the harmful impact of their behaviors on themselves and others. Over time, many choose to work toward abstinence.

“While many of us have criticized the War on Drugs, it's incumbent on us to identify ways to respond to legitimate community concerns about drug activity in a less harmful fashion. LEAD is a more effective answer to those community needs than limiting ourselves to a punishment-based approach,” Holmes said.

The finding of a report on LEAD released today (available at, is the first part of a three-part evaluation being conducted by researchers at the University of Washington.

LEAD is governed by a Policy Coordinating Group that is made up of a diverse set of stakeholders, including representatives from the Seattle Office of the Mayor; King County Executive Office; Seattle City Council; King County Council; Seattle City Attorney’s Office; King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; Seattle Police Department; King County Sheriff’s Office; Washington State Department of Corrections; Community Advisory Boards; the Public Defender Association; and the ACLU of Washington.

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