South Dakota legislature gavels in for 2013 session.
Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, (D) District 18, being sworn in for the 2013 S.D. Legislative Session.
Rep. Jim Bolin, (R) District 16, being sworn in for the 2013 S.D. Legislative Session.
PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) -
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard is taking on the challenge of trying to reform the state's criminal justice system. He addressed lawmakers on the opening day of the 88th legislative session by spelling out the key points of his plan in his traditional State of the State speech.
Lawmakers from both parties gathered in a joint session of the South Dakota legislature to welcome Governor Daugaard into the house chambers. And while the first term Governor talked about economic stability and job creation in the Rushmore state, his main focus was on his criminal justice initiative. South Dakota has a higher imprisonment rate than any other state in the region.
""More bad guys in prison equals less crime," I thought. Unfortunately that isn't the case," said Gov. Dennis Daugaard, (R) South Dakota said,
Daugaard says corrections is a huge expense for the state. If policy doesn't change, he says the prison population will swell by more than 900 inmates over the next decade and create the need for new prisons for both men and women. That cost would total $225 million.
"During the past 10 years, 17 states lowered their imprisonment rates. During that same time, all 17 of them also lowered their crime rates. In fact, the crime rate in those states has fallen twice as fast as South Dakota's crime rate has," said Daugaard.
A task force of top criminal justice leaders came up with 18 recommendations that include more alternative courts for non-violent offenders in drug and alcohol cases.
"By holding offenders more accountable and by giving them one more chance to avoid prison, alternate courts are changing behavior and improving public safety," said Daugaard.
The HOPE program would require drug abusers to stay in touch daily for potential drug testing and has strict sanctions for non-compliance. There would also be increased supervision of offenders in the community.
"Prison is an expensive place to change offender behavior, and studies have shown that prison is not the most effective place to treat those with drug, alcohol, and mental health issues," said Gov. Daugaard.
The bill was delivered to the senate chambers immediately after Daugaard's speech in a symbolic show of support. That will allow lawmakers to get to work on the Governor's priority.
Sen. Dan Lederman, (R) Dakota Dunes, SD said, "When you put in a program like this, you cut rates of recidivism. You cut rates of re-arrest. So it actually saves a lot more money than just the cost of building those two prisons."
While some lawmakers support the concept of the governor's plan, House Minority Leader Rep. Bernie Hunhoff believes there will be some debate over implementing the entire piece of legislation. He says he wishes it would have been introduced in parts, not as a whole. The Yankton democrat also says he has concerns about what he didn't hear from the Governor in his speech.
"Education. How we fund K thru 12 schools. It's our biggest public policy issue to be decided in South Dakota. Should we help the school districts recover from those huge cuts that they experienced a few years ago. Really, no mention of that," said Hunhoff.
It'll cost $7 million to implement and about $4 million to maintain. However, it's expected to save the state $200 million over the next decade.
Lawmakers will have 38 days to not only work our the details of the criminal justice reform plan, but also to approve a new, balanced budget.
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