Houston, Texas – My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Houston, an initiative of the Houston Health Department, and Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis have launched the country’s first law enforcement assisted program to divert young low-level offenders from prison to treatment and wraparound services.
The Houston Harris County Youth Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program kicked off Tuesday, September 25 at Houston ISD’s Attucks Middle School in the historic Sunnyside Community.
Nationally, LEAD programs target adults, however Houston’s program is the first in the country to leverage the model to serve youth who commit offenses at school and on school property. Such offences typically lead to arrests, costly court expenses and short stays in a supervised detention and confinement facilities. Harris County accounted for roughly 25 percent of the youth sent to juvenile prison last year, according to state data.
“Programs like the Houston Harris County Youth LEAD propgram align with the mission of My Brother’s Keeper, in that a huge part of our work is to ensure our city’s youth enter school ready to learn at all levels, graduate from high school and college or trade school and successfully enter the workforce thus dismantling the cradle-to-prison pipeline one life at a time,” said Noel Pinnock, Bureau Chief of the Houston Health Department Bureau of Youth and Adolescent Health and director of MBK Houston.
Unlike pre-trial interventions, the Houston Harris County Youth LEAD program stops the legal process before it beings, diverting would-be arrestees before they are handcuffed, and charges filed with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
“When we provide mental and behavioral health services to youth at the point of entry of the juvenile justice system, we will more likely address the deeper root causes that promoted the behavior in the first place,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department.
Resources from both the city and county will be leveraged to provide the overall coordination of services. Houston reVision will pair Houston Harris County Youth LEAD program participants with Harris County Protective Services to develop and administer case plans.
The concept of the Houston Harris County Youth LEAD program started in 2017 with the MBK Houston Youth Justice Council. Members Judge Michael Schneider and Robert Mock, former HISD chief of police, evaluated offence data and the potential impact of the program.
Attucks Middle School was selected as the inaugural site to launch the pilot program based on data showing the school had experienced more than 40 student arrests in the past year, more than any other campus in the district.
Handout pictures from the kick-off event: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Wsw3tY3Q43VhTBAo8
About MBK Houston
MBK Houston is a cross-sector initiative housed within the Houston Health Department that leverages the expertise of nonprofits, agencies, educational institutions and other partners to coalesce around strategies, evidence-based methodologies, and programs seeking to increase opportunities and close disparity gaps amongst youth of color that persist within Houston communities. The initiative primarily focuses on early childhood development, improving health outcomes, developing a well-trained workforce, and building safer neighborhoods. Learn more at MBKHouston.org.
- Scott Packard: Houston Health Department, 832-393-5054, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Porfirio Villarreal: Houston Health Department, 832-393-5041, email@example.com
- Sarah Rivers: Weber Shandwick, 469-917-6205, SRivers@webershandwick.com