"Albany's efforts and others have been based on a highly touted Seattle program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD. Launched in 2011, it aims to keep people out of prison by focusing on those who use a disproportionate share of public resources by repeatedly getting arrested or seeking care at emergency rooms.
Instead of booking those addicts or prostitutes into jail, police contact program employees, who meet with the offenders and try to enlist them in social services. That can mean getting them a pair of shoes or a bus pass to help keep appointments; buying them groceries until they obtain food stamps; providing short-term housing or even paying for yoga, art supplies, utility bills or college classes — whatever the person needs.
Unlike in drug courts, participants are not kicked out or threatened with jail time if they relapse."