Pubdate: Sat, 27 Jun 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Edmundo Carrillo, Journal North


Law Officials to Talk at White House Gathering

SANTA FE - Law enforcement officials here will have the opportunity 
to teach agencies from around the country about a new program 
combating opiate use at a White House conference next week.

Mayor Javier Gonzales, District Attorney Angela "Spence" Pacheco and 
state director of the Drug Policy Alliance Emily Kaltenbach will 
travel with other local officials to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to 
talk about a program that keeps low-grade drug offenders out of the 
court system.

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program was implemented in May 
2014. The program gives people over 18 who are found with three grams 
or less of opiates like pills or heroin the option to enter the 
program instead of facing jail time. Kaltenbach said Santa Fe is the 
second city in the nation, behind Seattle, to implement such a 
program, and that law enforcement agencies from across the country 
are gaining interest.

"As people look at dealing with mass incarceration and reforming our 
policing strategies and dealing with the failed war on drugs  we need 
a new approach," Kaltenbach said. "It's Seattle and Santa Fe that can 
teach the rest of the nation.

"Many of these folks are also engaged in small property crimes. 
They'll have a syringe on them, or it's clear that they're doing this 
to support an addiction. They can choose to participate in LEAD or go 
to jail. You don't have that arrest record that's hanging over you." 
A new residential burglary or a history violence are disqualifiers.

The program gives allows the responding officer to give an offender 
the chance to enter the program before being booked or charged with 
an offense. Once in the program, the candidate is assigned a case 
manager that handles any needs they might have to fight their 
addiction. It's all done in an attempt to curb incarceration numbers 
for nonviolent drug offenders and help them avoid felony charges.

"These people are either constantly going through treatment or the 
criminal justice system." Kaltenbach said. "Treatment is housing, 
it's job placement, it's education, it's childcare  if we can't 
support those basic needs in the most humane way, then this person is 
never going to have a chance to be a productive member of our 
community." About 36 people are now in the program, financed with 
city, county and private dollars, but plans are to triple 
participants as the program gains traction.

Law enforcement officials from San Francisco, Baltimore, Atlanta, 
Chicago and Houston will be in attendance at next week's conference. 
The Ford Foundation and the John and Laura Arnold Foundation will 
fund the trip for Santa Fe participants.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom