South Dakota governor signs bill reforming criminal justice system

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February 11, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law on February 6, 2013 a plan to cut the state's prison costs by treating more nonviolent offenders through intensive probation, parole and other programs outside prison walls.[1]

The bill came after a study warned of the rising population and costs of the state's prison system.[2] Officials warned that at the going incarceration rate South Dakota was poised to construct another state penitentiary.[2]

The plan to reform the criminal justice system, set forth as SB 70, also known as the South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act, will use intensive probation and parole, along with expanded special courts that treat drug and alcohol offenders, in an effort to divert offenders from prison and prevent them from committing future crimes.[1]

With this new reform, those who may be doing time for drug and alcohol offenses may have a chance to get out and be on parole, and a part of a rehab program. It is thought that this will reduce the incarceration rate, hold off building new prisons, and save the state millions.[3]

Gov. Daugaard commented on the new law, “It recognizes that we do need prisons for violent offenders, for career and chronic offenders, but it shouldn’t be a place for non-violent offenders.”[3]

Daugaard also said by having offenders in rehab programs, instead of being incarcerated, it will make them less of a threat to the public because they may learn how to deal with their addictions and not drag others into it and that he is aware of those who may violate their parole and get put back in prison, but he said he believes more people will show it was a good thing these changes were made.[3]

The bill experienced some opposition in the house.[2] The bill initially removed preliminary hearings for people charged with Class I Misdemeanors, and an amendment was proposed to reinstate those hearings. Opponents claimed excluding preliminary hearings was unjust and would lead to more costs in hearings and trials down the road.[2]

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