PRESS RELEASE: County Commission Creates Positions to Promote Equity and Diversion

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(Press release from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners)

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners last week unanimously approved three resolutions to create new positions in the Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices. These positions are a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Sheriff’s Office as well as a Program Coordinator and a designated Prosecutor for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion / Deflection (LEADD) Initiative.

“As a Board, we are committed to supporting efforts to increase the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Washtenaw County,” said Sue Shink, Chair of the Board of Commissioners and Commissioner for District 2. “Our community has made it clear that this is a priority, and we are extremely thankful to have partners in the Sheriff and Prosecutor leading this critical work.”

This Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will lead efforts to cultivate a culture of equity and inclusion at the Sheriff’s Office. Responsibilities will include intentionally attracting more diverse staff at all levels, fostering increased community engagement, and proactively promoting just and equitable practices. This position is funded in part by the Washtenaw County Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage that passed in November of 2017.

“The Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will build on the racial equity work already being done by the county,” said Sheriff Jerry Clayton. “We are excited to have the Board’s support in continuing to serve our community as justly as possible.”

The LEADD Initiative is a community-based, pre-booking diversion program that provides individuals with behavioral health or substance use issues an alternative to arrest or citation. The goal of the program is increasing the number of individuals receiving services from community-based providers, while also decreasing contact with the criminal justice system. The two positions related to this program approved by the Board are a Program Coordinator in the Sheriff’s Office and a LEADD Prosecutor.

The Program Coordinator will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the LEADD program. This will include coordinating with community partners to design, implement, and sustain program activities. The LEADD Prosecutor will be responsible for overseeing all cases that have been diverted through the LEADD program. They will track the progress of LEADD program participants and manage all cases involving those individuals to ensure those who are having their needs addressed through the LEADD program are not brought into the criminal justice system for other reasons. Both LEADD positions are fully funded by a grant from Vital Strategies.

“We believe this has the opportunity to be a truly transformative program for addressing behavioral health and addiction in our county,” said Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, “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.”

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