Washtenaw County creates three new positions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has approved three new positions in the county prosecutor’s and sheriff’s offices to support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Sheriff Jerry Clayton was instrumental in creating the new positions: a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the sheriff’s office, as well as a program coordinator and prosecutor for the county's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and Deflection (LEADD) program. 
 
“The sheriff has been working on this for many years. The criminal system is not always the best answer,” says Sue Shink, chair of the Board of Commissioners and commissioner for District 2. “We are committed to supporting the efforts to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.”
 
The director of diversity, equity, and inclusion position will focus on creating a culture of equity and inclusion in the sheriff’s office. The position is intended to attract more diverse staff at multiple levels while proactively promoting equitable practices. 
 
Washtenaw County is working with the LEADD initiative to help decrease contact with the criminal justice system for those who have behavioral health or substance abuse problems. The LEADD Initiative is a community-based, pre-booking diversion program that assists people with behavioral health or substance abuse issues as an alternative to arrest. The program's goal is to reduce contact with the criminal justice system. The two positions approved by the board are a program coordinator in the sheriff’s office and a LEADD prosecutor.  
 
“Folks will not just have one case of substance abuse, but they might have multiple cases,” Shink says. “It is wonderful to work in a county that is working towards the same end goal.” 
 
The program coordinator will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the LEADD program. This position will help coordinate program activities and design and implement programs. The program coordinator will report to the LEADD prosecutor, who will be responsible for overseeing all cases that have been diverted. This person will also be responsible for tracking participants' progress and managing cases to make sure needs are being met. Both LEADD positions are fully funded by a grant from Vital Strategies, a global public health organization that helps governments strengthen their public health systems. 
 
“The criminal legal system is not always the best solution for these types of cases,” says Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit. “This is a transformative program for behavioral health and addiction. If someone is caught stealing alcohol, we have to dig deeper beneath the surface. This program will help us to look at the big picture – more of a holistic approach.” 
 
Monica Hickson is a freelance writer currently based in Ypsilanti.   
 
Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County.
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