Board Approves Diversion Grant to Help Repeat Offenders

Board Approves Diversion Grant to Help Repeat Offenders

Instead of going to jail some drug abusers and other low-level offenders will be connected to help under grants awarded today by the Board of State and Community Corrections.

The San Francisco Mayor’s Office and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors submitted successful applications for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which allows officers on the street to determine whether some individuals might be open to receiving help in turning around their lives through counseling and other support.

Modeled on a program in Seattle, Washington, the grant is designed to get willing volunteers into treatment programs, housing, job training and other services that can help them stop revolving through the criminal justice system.

The Legislature had appropriated $15 million for the competitive grant, with $550,000 allocated to pay for technical assistance from the Seattle program officials and to provide program assessment. The two government entities applied for a total of $11.8 million in funding and will receive $5.9 million each. The remaining $2.65 million will return to the general fund.

San Francisco plans to support a pre-booking diversion program. It is a collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Police Department, Bay Area Rapid Transit Police, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, Adult Probation, and community partners Glide, the Felton Institute and the Drug Policy Alliance. LEAD SF will refer repeat, low-level drug offenders to community-based health and social services as an alternative to jail and prosecution, according to a statement released by the county’s department of public health.

“This program will help redirect people to much-needed treatment programs,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “By intervening at the earliest possible point, police officers and public health providers will partner to improve community safety and quality of life for all our residents.”

Los Angeles plans to focus its efforts in South Los Angeles in the communities of Lynwood, Compton and Long Beach, where city and county law enforcement officers will identify 300 people with histories of repeat incarceration. Instead of arrest, they will be offered the chance to participate in harm reduction and housing programs. The program will be a partnership between the County, the District Attorney, Probation and Health Agency’s Office of Diversion and Reentry and Housing for Health divisions, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health; the City of Long Beach, including the Long Beach Police Department, the City Prosecutor, and public defenders; community organizations; and community members. The Office of Diversion and Reentry will manage the project.

Senate Bill 843, chaptered on June 27, 2016, authorized the funding and says the grants are designed “to improve public safety and reduce recidivism by increasing the availability and use of social service resources while reducing costs to law enforcement agencies and courts stemming from repeated incarceration.”

The BSCC provides leadership, coordination and technical assistance to promote effective partnerships and practices in California’s local criminal justice systems. It administers state and federal grants designed to reduce adult and juvenile recidivism.