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Criminal Justice Reforms

In 2013, the Legislature passed Governor Daugaard’s Public Safety Improvement Act to address prison overcrowding and improve public safety. The new law restructured the state’s sentencing framework for non-violent offenders and included new probation accountability programs like drug and alcohol courts, making it the largest investment in correctional behavioral health in state history.

According to the advisory council’s most recent report, South Dakota is saving money thanks to the reforms. The report indicates there are 278 fewer inmates within the state prison system today than there would have been without the Public Safety Improvement Act. (The average cost for incarceration is almost $60 a day and $22,000 per year.) Additionally, without the law, state officials say a new women’s prison would have been needed last year at the cost of $36 million.

The state’s investment in programs to help offenders who have drug and alcohol problems is also noted in the report. The number of individuals served by Drug or DUI Court has nearly tripled since the passage of the reforms. So far, 88 percent of those who have completed substance abuse treatment have not recidivated within a year of their release.

Two years after the Public Safety Improvement Act was passed, the Daugaard Administration successfully brought legislation on juvenile justice. At the time, South Dakota had the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the country and was 188 percent above the national average. More than three-quarters of the commitments to the juvenile justice system were for nonviolent or probation violations.

Since the passage of the reforms, new commitments to DOC have declined 43 percent and the number of recommitments has declined 62 percent, from FY 14 to FY 16. By investing in diversion programs, more juveniles are able to stay within their own communities. So far, nearly 70 percent of diversions from the juvenile justice system have been completed successfully.