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Crime program targets cause, not effect

| January 12, 2022 1:00 AM

Treat ‘em, Danno.

With apologies to Jack Lord & Co., that “Book ‘em” alternative is a phrase we hope catches on in Idaho.

Laws demonstrating compassion for citizens struggling with life — Medicaid expansion, anyone? — are embraced by legislators about as often as infants hug porcupines. But somehow, a pilot program has made it through enough cold hearts and closed minds to possibly combine practical problem-solving with a little bit of good old fashioned human kindness.

The program, highlighted in Sunday’s Press, will give Idaho State Police in our region an option other than arrest when dealing with certain people with substance use disorders. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) targets low-level offenders — meaning basically non-violent addicts who aren’t trying to sell drugs — to send them not to jail, but to treatment programs.

According to The Press article, LEAD combines the efforts of law enforcement, public health, city and county prosecutors and substance use treatment providers. When an officer encounters a person committing a diversion-eligible offense, the officer can refer that person to LEAD rather than book ‘em.

There are stipulations to ensure the public’s safety is protected. The person can’t have been involved in a violent crime or crime involving firearms. They must not have any felony convictions in the last 10 years. They can’t be on probation or parole. Sex offenders and people with a no-contact order or civil protection order aren’t eligible, either.

The program is designed for people involved in non-violent misdemeanors that might be associated with substance abuse, as well as felony possession of a controlled substance. Drug possession is the only felony that doesn’t disqualify someone from LEAD.

Not only is the program intended to help break the cycle of substance abuse that destroys individuals and families, it also has potentially strong societal benefits. Courts tied up by repeat drug use offenders could see some daylight. Overcrowded jails might become less so. And the reduction of crimes committed by drug addicts, including burglary, robbery and larceny, will bring relief to worried communities.

If LEAD is a success — and we see no reason it should fail — perhaps there are other worthy projects that will better solve problems rather than conveniently stuff them away in society’s darkest corners.

Let LEAD lead the way.

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