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Colorado’s LEAD program espouses a new offender strategy

We referenced a confirmed criminal sentencing failure in a recent blog post, noting in our February 25 entry “a knee-jerk policy that fails far more often than it succeeds.”

That is the decades-old War on Crime strategy espousing a default lock-them-up outcome for criminal offenders. That practice has stuffed jails and prisons to a busting point in Colorado and nationally. It has also resulted in behind-bars treatment for legions of first-time and nonviolent offenders.

Justice insiders – ranging from judges, attorneys and legislators to law enforcers, reform advocates and more – are increasingly deriding that approach for the fiscal and human failures it has bred. They are clamoring for change that will better promote post-release reassimilation success for offenders, cut back materially on recidivism rates and help rather than saddle municipal budgets.

Enter the LEAD program, which is shorthand for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. The LEAD initiative is a new alternative-to-prison effort that is being rolled out in select Colorado communities, including Denver. A Colorado Public Radio story on LEAD notes that its primary focus is on responding to lower-level drug defendants and other offenders by helping them “connect to resources and services like housing, substance abuse treatment or vocational training.”

The reasoned hope underlying that no-prison diversion is clear enough: Advocates are convinced that directly addressing mental health and addiction issues with community-based programs and opportunities will help stop “a revolving door of arrest, incarceration and repeat.”

The LEAD program is slated to roll out in progressively ramped-up fashion. Reportedly, LEAD will serve about 100 offenders during 2019. We will track its progress.

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