"All of us who are part of the criminal justice system must become change agents."
LeRoy Washington spent 34 years as a probation officer including 25 years as a federal officer in Seattle. He began his career with the Riverside County Probation Department in 1972 and was hired as a federal probation officer in 1979. Throughout his career, he worked all facets of the federal probation system including pretrial services, supervision, and pre-sentence investigation. During his time as a pre-sentence investigator, LeRoy helped to roll out the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines implemented as part of the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act.
Having worked closely with those in the criminal justice system for over four decades, LeRoy holds a long-term and critical view of our approach to drug crimes. “Over the last 40 years, I’ve watched our criminal justice system lurch from one ‘crisis’ position to another, leading to reactionary legislation that ignores what studies tell us,” he says. “Our emphasis on punishment without balance of rehabilitation and prevention is coming back to haunt us. After decades of an ineffective arrest-and-incarcerate approach to drugs, we are now starting to panic at the overcrowding of prisons and the potential release of thousands of inmates.”
LeRoy joined LEAP to call for evidence-based approaches that benefit from the lessons of history rather than repeating old mistakes. “All of us who are part of the criminal justice system must become change agents. Ultimately, we all have a stake in preserving our society, and that means we need to educate ourselves to the realization that our ‘war on drugs’ is a failure and that we need to be the source of a change,” he says. In LeRoy’s experience, education and therapeutic environments are a crucial part of case management. “Substance abuse is a public health issue, and national efforts must be made to regulate substances,” he says. “This will go a long way in controlling the illegal profit incentives that continue to put so many at risk.”
After retiring, LeRoy moved to Hawaii. He has been married for over 40 years with three children and three grandchildren.