We pursue justice in partnership with our communities, and my office has a national reputation as a leader in effective criminal justice reform. We realize that some issues will not be solved by arrests and convictions. We are leading the nation in our efforts to build a public health response to drug addiction, and have well-established veterans, mental health, and drug court alternatives to traditional prosecution. We are steadily decreasing racial disproportionality by providing alternatives to incarceration, as well as diverting young people to accountability programs designed to change behavior. I co-chair a statewide effort to reduce recidivism by helping people build productive lives after paying their debt to society. In all these efforts, am committed to making King County a safe place to live, work and raise a family.
I was an original sponsor of the flagship Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, in partnership with the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff, other elected officials, civil rights leaders and neighborhood public safety advocates. LEAD is a community-based diversion program that allows law enforcement to direct people engaged in low-level drug activity into evidence-based intensive wrap-around services, rather than prosecution and jail. LEAD works with people for whom nothing else has been successful, reducing recidivism by 60% at a lower cost than the traditional justice system. Police and prosecutors coordinate long-term with case managers to ensure that, at every turn, we’re engaging with LEAD participants in a way that is most likely to actually change behavior and improve their situation and public safety. LEAD is part of our efforts to reduce racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. Where before, about 50% of arrests for drug-related crimes were of African Americans, now about 50% of the people whom LEAD is helping to stay out of the traditional justice system are African American.
Our LEAD program, the first of its kind in the nation, was featured at a symposium at the Obama White House in 2015. LEAD has since become a model for addressing the root problems associated with drug addiction nationwide, replicated in dozens of jurisdictions including Denver, New Orleans, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Houston. Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal endorsed the LEAD program as an alternative to the failed War on Drugs and received rare bipartisan support in Congress. In Seattle-King County, it is now expanding to include a focus on people who commit law violations due to higher acuity mental illness. My office is also part of King County’s Familiar Faces Initiative, aimed at better outcomes for high utilizers of the jail who have physical and behavioral health issues. We collaborate with health care providers to help identify legal barriers, quash warrants, and dismiss charges.
In 2011, I partnered with community leaders to institute a program to divert youth out of the criminal justice system. The Choose 180 Youth Workshop has created a place for nearly 400 youth each year to engage with community leaders and given them a chance to reevaluate their decisions to put them on a better path in life. This program has led to savings for our juvenile justice system, and more importantly, it has proven to help youths change their attitudes and behavior by allowing them to step back and recognize the personal costs of their decisions. My office made it a priority to ensure that this opportunity reached young people of color, those who are homeless, or are lacking parental support by ensuring that there is adequate community outreach to youth and families.
These are just a few of the ways my office is working to reform our criminal justice system and better provide for our community. I believe it is important that we work to address the core problems that lead to criminal activity so we can continue making our community safer.