Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment And Decision-making) was established in 1993 by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Its goal is to teach children that the choices they make today can affect their lives forever. An evaluation of the program was conducted by Bernadette Chi, PhD and Ellen Middaugh, M.A. of the University of California, Berkley in 2003 to gauge its impact on students’ knowledge and attitudes about the legal system as well as Project LEAD’s capacity as a delinquency prevention model. The evaluation showed that Project LEAD provides:
- Protective factors that decrease students’ propensity to become involved in negative and illegal activities.
- An increase in students' knowledge about the legal system.
- An increase in positive dispositions:
- Confidence in their own decision-making capacities.
- Attitudes about the legal system.
- Attitudes about authority.
The USAO Initiative
The USAO has tailored Project LEAD’s curriculum to focus on situations that youth in the Eastern District of Louisiana are likely to encounter. The 10-week curriculum, taught by AUSAs, focuses on the social and legal consequences of juvenile crimes, such as truancy, illicit drug use, shoplifting and graffiti. Project LEAD also teaches students techniques for resolving conflict, resisting peer pressure, promoting tolerance and respect for diversity, and the role of education in achieving economic stability. Students also learn about the federal and state judicial systems, including how they function and the roles prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and defendants play in the litigation process. The curriculum concludes with students performing a scripted mock trial, putting into practice what they have learned about the criminal justice system. During the 2017-2018 school year, the USAO brought the Project LEAD curriculum to three area schools: The Good Shepard of the Nativity School, Concordia Lutheran School, and Mildred S. Harris Elementary School.