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New Diversion Program for Houston and Harris County Young Offenders

Published: Dec 03, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Juvenile Crimes

Earlier this fall, the City of Houston and Harris County launched a new program designed to keep youths out of the criminal justice system. The program is called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). It operates in partnership with My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that fights to address issues young men of color face in Houston through educational programs and other activities.

LEAD is a diversion program that focuses on school children who commit offenses on school property. Attucks Middle School is serving as the first home for the new program, due to the fact that it had 40 arrests in the prior school year. Accounting for approximately 25 percent of the juvenile prison population, Harris County officials believe that the program will not only reduce those numbers, but also cut down on the overall number of adults who find themselves trapped in the criminal justice system.

If your child is facing charges for committing an offense at school in Harris County, contact a Houston juvenile lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (713) 222-6767.

A History of Success

The first LEAD program began in Seattle, Washington in 2011, and it focused primarily on minor drug and prostitution offenders. Its two principal objectives were:

  • To keep low-level offenders from becoming hardened convicts
  • To bring relief to an overburdened criminal justice system

The program appears to have been a tremendous success, claiming that participants in the program are 58 percent less likely to be arrested again as compared to those who did not participate in the program and committed similar crimes. Since its founding in Seattle, LEAD has expanded to (or is developing in) more than 40 cities across the county.

What Makes the Houston Diversion Program Unique

Many LEAD programs focus on low-level adult offenders. The Houston LEAD program is the first one in the country to focus on school-aged children. After hearing a presentation on LEAD in 2017, the Houston Youth Justice Council started discussing the program as a way to deal with at-risk children, keeping them in school and out of the criminal justice system.

A New Strategy

There are already various pre-trial programs in place that postpone or even halt court proceedings if the person charged agrees to participate in the programs. However, these pre-trial intervention programs are offered only after the offender has been arrested, booked, and charged. LEAD programs divert offenders from the criminal justice system altogether. Offenders who participate in the program are never booked or charged. In other words, the legal process stops before it even begins.

Focused exclusively on school children, the Houston LEAD program will offer an alternative to those who commit offenses at school and on school property. Rather than make an arrest, the LEAD program gives campus police discretion to place students in the LEAD program who get caught committing misdemeanors or even some felonies. A report is generated, but never filed, with any authorities. Instead, the child receives an array of services and counseling designed to keep them in school and help them avoid future offenses.

Putting children in detention facilities is of practically no benefit – children who are arrested, suspended, and confined miss school and are more likely to drop out. Studies have shown that kids who are suspended in their school years have a higher likelihood of arrest more than a decade later. Houston officials are therefore hopeful that the program will be a big step in breaking the chain of lifelong criminal behavior.

Contact Houston Juvenile Lawyer Ned Barnett

Unfortunately, the LEAD programs and similar initiatives are not available to all children and in all circumstances. If your child is facing criminal charges, their future is in danger. Programs such as LEAD acknowledge the fact that the youths involved with the criminal justice system are much more likely to be in trouble with the law when they are older. The best thing you can do to protect your child’s future is to hire an experienced juvenile lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett.

Attorney Ned Barnett has decades of legal experience, including more than 30 years as a criminal defense and juvenile lawyer. He has the skills and the compassion to help you get your child’s life back on the right track. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (713) 222-6767, or contact us online.