State Releases Plans To Improve Juvenile Justice System, Reduce Costs
PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JJRI) Work Group submitted to state leaders today a comprehensive set of data-driven policy recommendations for the upcoming legislative session that will increase public safety, effectively hold juvenile offenders accountable and reduce juvenile justice costs.
The proposed recommendations would accomplish those goals by:
- Focusing expensive residential placements on youth who are a risk to public safety,
- Preventing deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system for youth committing lower level offenses,
- Improving outcomes by expanding access to evidence-based community interventions, and
- Ensuring the quality and sustainability of reforms.
The policy recommendations released today resulted from six months of work by the work group, which analyzed juvenile arrest, disposition, probation and corrections data, and reviewed research on effective practices in juvenile justice. The work group examined how to best reduce delinquency and recidivism with effective community-based practices and residential treatment.
Established by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson, the JJRI Work Group examination of the state’s juvenile justice system follows a successful reform effort two years ago in the criminal justice system.
“Our job is to produce the best possible results for taxpayers at the lowest possible cost, and that’s exactly what this plan does,” said Gov. Daugaard. “It will help get our troubled youth back on the right track while cutting the high cost of the system.”
The latest available national figures show the state had the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the country in 2011. Research shows that for many youth residential placement generally fails to produce better outcomes than alternative sanctions. It also costs much more, and can actually increase reoffending in certain circumstances. In fiscal year 2014, residential placement cost South Dakota taxpayers between $41,000 and $144,000 per youth per year. While recidivism rates have improved, more than four in 10 youth return to the Department of Corrections (DOC) within three years of release.
Key findings of the JJRI Work Group include:
- Fewer youth are being admitted to probation and DOC, but the length of time youth spend out of home, committed or on probation has increased over the past 10 years.
- Nearly 75 percent of commitments to DOC are for misdemeanors, Children In Need Of Supervision (CHINS) violations, and probation violations.
- Low-risk probation admissions increased from 49 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in 2013.
- Evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders are not sufficiently available in the community.
- Pre-court diversion is used inconsistently across the state.
“We charged the work group with studying the juvenile justice system to see if there were opportunities for better outcomes for our youth and our communities,” said Chief Justice Gilbertson. “I am very pleased with the work group’s policy recommendations. The policies, if adopted, will result in fewer youth coming into our court system and more resources for our court services officers to hold juvenile probationers accountable and address their behaviors while keeping them in their homes rather than in expensive residential facilities.”
“In 2012 and 2013, we used state data and national research to increase public safety through the passage of comprehensive criminal justice reform,” said Speaker Brian Gosch. “Over the past six months, we applied a similar approach to juvenile justice. The recommendations in the report provide the Legislature with a guide for achieving better outcomes for our state’s youth and for becoming national leaders in juvenile justice.”
“The policies put forth by the work group will change our juvenile justice system for the better,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk. “If we do this well, we will not only have fewer youth in our juvenile system, but fewer will come into our adult corrections system too.”
The members of the JJRI Work Group include:
- Jim D. Seward, general counsel for Gov. Daugaard, chair;
- Nancy Allard, director of Trial Court Services, Unified Judicial System;
- Julie Bartling (D-District 21);
- Kristi Bunkers, director of the Juvenile Community Corrections, Department of Corrections;
- Speaker Brian Gosch (R-District 32);
- Doug Herrmann, director of Juvenile Services, Department of Corrections;
- Judge Steven Jensen, presiding judge, First Judicial Circuit;
- Sheriff Mike Leidholt, Hughes County;
- Judge Larry Long, presiding judge, Second Judicial Circuit;
- Judge Scott Myren, presiding judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit;
- Terry Nebelsick, Huron superintendent;
- Angel Runnels, Minnehaha County public defender;
- Alan Solano (R-District 32);
- Billie Sutton (D-District 21);
- Mark Vargo, Pennington County state’s attorney;
- Bob Wilcox, executive director, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners; and
- Tiffany Wolfgang, director of Division of Behavioral Health, Department of Social Services.
The work group’s report can be viewed at jjri.sd.gov under the “Workgroup Report” tab. (or, see below -pp)
The JJRI Work Group received technical assistance from the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts.