Criminal Justice Programs
SOS provides the “Peer-Strength” criminal justice program with the Department of Corrections, Strafford County probation and parole as well as Strafford County community corrections and drug court. SOS RCO has two staff members who attend weekly drug court and are available for coaching individuals needing services. This program was launched following completion of a technical assistance grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale, Technical Assistance Services (BRSS-TACS). The technical assistance grant was to build a model for peer-based recovery-oriented re-entry programs with corrections. GSCH subsequently received a SAMHSA grant for medically assisted treatment expansion and we utilized that funding to expand recovery support services for a population identified as high risk that is involved in the criminal justice system. The program connects individuals with medically assisted recovery when identified as well as an expansion of peer recovery support services in Strafford County.
Our two staff members currently spend one day each week down the hall from the probation and parole offices for check ins. Probation and parole officers refer participants to SOS and we provide crisis navigation and welness based recovery coaching for them. It has become so popular many participants are self-referring. We also have our coaches working with drug court case managers and they attend drug court proceedings each week.
SOS also runs a weekly group inside of the Strafford County Correctional facility for the purposes of re-entry programming. This group is run inside Therapeutic Communities and is structured as a group recovery coaching service as well as a peer-based mutual support group for those attending.
How does LEAD work?
In a LEAD® program, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm-reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle — booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration — individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment. Prosecutors and police officers work closely with case managers to ensure that all contacts with LEAD® participants going forward, including new criminal prosecutions for other offenses, are coordinated with the service plan for the participant to maximize the opportunity to achieve behavioral change.
LEAD® holds considerable promise as a way for law enforcement and prosecutors to help communities respond to public order issues stemming from unaddressed public health and human services needs — addiction, untreated mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty — through a public health framework that reduces reliance on the formal criminal justice system.
In 2011, in an attempt to move away from the War on Drugs paradigm and to reduce gross racial disparities in police enforcement, LEAD® — a new harm-reduction oriented process for responding to low-level offenses such as drug possession, sales, and prostitution — was developed and launched in Seattle, WA. LEAD® was the result of an unprecedented collaboration between police, prosecutors, civil rights advocates, public defenders, political leaders, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers and other service agencies, and business and neighborhood leaders — working together to find new ways to solve problems for individuals who frequently cycle in and out of the criminal justice system under the familiar approach that relies on arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.