Human Services & Public Safety

What Baltimore Needs is homes for our homeless and treatment for our substance abusers.

We ​waste millions of dollars each year, recirculating people ​through the criminal justice system for possession, prostitution, and other non-violent offenses. Other cities and states have shown that it is far more cost-effective to solve their problems by providing housing, case management and access to a continuum of care than it is to provide endless trips to the lock-up or the ER.​

LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) is a program designed to use human services and case management to address public safety problems which do not respond well to a traditional prosecution and punishment approach. The LEAD program allows street-level police officers to divert individuals committing low-level crimes – typically minor drug or prostitution offenses – away from formal arrest and prosecution and instead into an intensively-managed social services program.

I was introduced to LEAD early in 2015 at conference on local police reforms by one of the key stakeholders in Seattle’s LEAD effort, who subsequently invited me to bring a delegation from Baltimore to a national convening on LEAD that summer, hosted by the Obama Administration.  We joined representatives from several dozen other jurisdictions around the country who were interested in learning more about LEAD.

Since then, representatives from Baltimore’s Police Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Health Department, Mayor and City Council, as well as the Open Society Institute and other relevant stakeholders, have met to examine the feasibility of implementing LEAD here in Baltimore and determining next steps.

What will be key to LEAD’s success, if we want it to work at scale, will be making the resources available to the needed human services.  If we cannot offer housing to the homeless, or treatment to the addicts, we will never be able to move past the status quo.

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