New Washtenaw County diversion program aims to provide resources, keep offenders out of system

A new initiative by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office aims to keep offenders out of the criminal justice system by providing them with community-based resources.

Prosecutor Eli Savit introduced the new program, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Deflection (LEADD) Initiative. 

LEADD is a pre-booking program that provides resources to people to divert them away from the system and ultimately keep them out of jail. The program will provide people struggling with substance use and behavioral health issues with community-based resources.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit

Addressing the needs of offenders is a key part of criminal justice reforms that are intended to rehab people versus merely punishing people.

The prosecutor’s office is currently hiring a program coordinator and a designated prosecutor for the program. A grant program from Vital Strategies funded both positions.

"We believe this has the opportunity to be a truly transformative program for addressing behavioral health and addiction in our county. The criminal legal system is often not the best place to address these issues, so we’re happy to be a part of a program that recognizes that fact and is trying to do something about it," Savit said.

Community treatment programs have been shown to help offenders change their behavior and reduce their likelihood of committing future crimes. Studies have also found that resources provided outside of prison are more effective than when offenders are offered the same resources behind bars.

LEADD is just one initiative in a string of criminal justice reform moves Savit has made since taking office earlier this year.

One of Savit’s first changes to the county was eliminating cash bail. Rather than making individuals pay a cash bail so they can be released before trial, he said his office will be asking for GPS tethers, house arrest, drug testing, and other conditions on a case-by-case basis.

Savit also announced in January that he would no longer charge cases related to marijuana or naturally occurring psychedelics. Additionally, he will not charge sex workers with crimes.