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Jeanette Moll | January 23, 2013
Right on Crime often focuses on prioritizing prison beds for dangerous, violent criminals, while finding more effective ways of reducing crime in low-risk offenders. One way to develop those more effective responses to crime is to tailor the criminal justice system response to the particular instances involved in the arrest or offense at hand.
For example, Tarrant County, Texas, has developed a “Felony Alcohol Intervention Program,” which is an alternative to prison specifically for those guilty of driving under the influence, or DUI. Under the Program, multiple DUI offenders who would be facing a prison sentence plead guilty to a felony, receive a probated prison sentence, and then are placed in the intensive four-year Program. Offenders are banned from driving at first, and undergo counseling, weekly court visits, constant monitoring via ankle alcohol monitors, urine testing, and are given ignition interlocks to use upon attaining their driving privileges.
The Program costs around $3 per day—a significant cost savings from the $50-per-day price tag for a prison bed. For those who successfully graduate, those cost savings underscore the sober, DUI-free lifestyle they’ve now learned to live and appreciate, and the safer roadways in Tarrant County.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, the “Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion” program, or LEAD, targets frequent fliers constantly rearrested for drug offenses. For those offenders, the short stays in jail have done nothing to quell their persistent drug habits and poverty issues, and under the LEAD program, law enforcement has the ability to try something different. Funded by private donations, the LEAD program focuses on reducing the harm that is created by the drug addiction—whether through treatment, job placement, shelter, or counseling.
The frequent fliers eligible for LEAD would otherwise cost the city of Seattle between $3,500 and $7,500 for each arrest, not including jail or prison time served. LEAD seeks to halt that cycle while continuing to protect the public safety—no offender with any violent crime on his or her record is eligible, nor are those with open warrants or those who were dealing drugs.