Thursday, February 22, 2018

How Good Intentions Helped LEAD to Parkland [UPDATED]

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  That was never more true than in Parkland, FL, where a deranged 19 year old murdered 17 people at his former high school.  Thanks to the good intentions of programs like "Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion" (LEAD), "Data Driven Justice" (DDJ), and "Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education" (PROMISE), the deranged gunman was kept out of the criminal justice system despite 39 at least 45 warnings to local law enforcement, two three very specific tips to the FBI, about 40 visits to the shooters home, a desperate call from the shooter himself, and several crimes previously committed.  Despite all that, he remained free to buy a gun, enter a school, and commit a massacre. 

The pop media's approach to covering these lapses has been mostly to ignore them and blame the gun.  When the lapses are acknowledge, they are attributed to incompetence.  Unfortunately, these "lapses" were not all incompetence.  They were deliberate.  They were pre-meditated.  

It all started in Seattle in 2011 when that city began experimenting with a program called LEAD.  LEAD was designed to "divert" low level criminals away from the criminal justice system and thus save them from the bad outcomes associated with incarceration and stigmatization.  The theory was that minority students were disproportionately ending-up in the criminal justice system and thus were unfairly being hurt.  Instead of being treated as criminals, these supposedly low level offenders were sent back to their schools and communities where cops, administrators and social workers were supposed to deal with them away from the criminal justice system.  Cities and states run by politicians of all stripes adopted versions of LEAD during the Obama administration, which took up the mantle and promoted its own expanded version called "Data Driven Justice" (DDJ).  Broward County adopted their own program called PROMISE in 2016.  

Here's a press release from Barack Obama's press office touting the fabulous money saved, the lower crime rates, and the freed-up jail space due to their DDJ program in of all places, the county adjacent to Broward County, Florida:
For example, Miami-Dade, Florida found that 97 people with serious mental illness accounted for $13.7 million in services over 4 years, spending more than 39,000 days in either jail, emergency rooms, state hospitals, or psychiatric facilities in their county.In response, the county provided key mental health de-escalation training to their police officers and 911 dispatchers. Over the past 5 years, Miami-Dade police have responded to nearly 50,000 calls for service for people in mental-health crises, but have made only 109 arrests, diverting more than 10,000 people to services or safely stabilizing situations without arrest.The jail population fell from over 7,000 to just over 4,700, and the county was able to close an entire jail facility, saving nearly $12 million a year.
They saved $12 million!  Isn't that great?  And made only 109 arrests from 50,000 calls!  Isn't that awesome?  This was about the same time when the local police were being called to the gunman's home 39 times for violent, and sometimes criminal, behavior!  

PROMISE, LEAD, DDJ, and similar programs started out as a way to "divert" low level criminals away from prison and it's negative consequences.  They started with good intentions, though those good intentions were based on dubious theories about incarceration rates.

The programs quickly became a way to save money, show improved crime statistics, and arbitrarily lower incarceration rates.  Let me repeat:  The lapses in Broward County LEADing to this massacre were deliberate attempts to save money and show better crime statistics.

PROMISE, LEAD and DDJ need to be exposed and become part of the corrective action taken to prevent further tragedies like Parkland.

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