To help improve its relationship with the public, the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office held its fourth community education series at Washtenaw Community College.
Over seventy residents paid close attention as Sheriff Jerry Clayton spoke about a new program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD. It will help determine if someone really needs to go to jail, or may need help with issues such as mental health.
"With LEAD, you formulate that process, you bring in the other criminal justice systems and human services partners to make sure that a person gets connected and is a process of helping them address some their root cause issues." Clayton explained.
The Washtenaw County Jail has an average of nearly 8,000 bookings every year. Lynn Drickamer from Ann Arbor attended the meeting and said, "I think its a high number and mostly I think in many ways we are asking law enforcement to deal with a lot of social problems that really ought to be handled in other ways."
Annually, about 6,500 inmates are released from the Washtenaw County Jail. About 85% of them return to neighborhoods in Washtenaw County. Most people are sent to jail because of driving and traffic violations, 24% of those charges are associated with liquor or drugs. Over half of the inmates are in jail for less than one day per booking.
Another topic of discussion at the session was offering jail to community re-entry services for inmates. Celeste Tibbs attended the meeting. Tibbs told WEMU news, "A lot of women that come out of prison don't have strong supported systems, therefore the recidivism rate is high."
Since 2000, the jail population of inmates who recidivate has increased by 26.4% at the county jail.
Sheriff Jerry Clayton says connecting former inmates with services such as employment will help keep them away from jail. The next Community Education Series will discuss 911 dispatch services. A date has not been announced.
*In the interest of full disclosure, Jerry Clayton is a candidate for Washtenaw County Sheriff in the upcoming general election.*
— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org