Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Criminal Justice Reform Update

Criminal Justice Reform Update 

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

In January of 2012, I introduced in my State of the State Address a proposal to comprehensively reform our criminal justice system. The Public Safety Improvement Act legislation was pieced together with help from the Chief Justice, legislative leaders and stakeholders from across the state. The bill passed with overwhelming support.

Aimed at addressing prison overcrowding and improving public safety, the proposal restructured our sentencing framework for non-violent offenders. It included new and improved probation accountability programs like drug and alcohol courts, making it the largest investment in the history of our state for correctional behavioral health.

Four-and-a-half years later, we are seeing positive developments.

Among the successes is probation. Under the new law, felony probationers can reduce the duration of their probation by 30 days each time they complete 30 days of perfect behavior. Last fiscal year, offenders reduced their time on probation by 809,250 days. That’s more than 2,000 years-worth of probation credit. Probationers who do well early in their probation term are very unlikely to violate later in their term, so this reform allows probation officers to focus on supervising those who need it. Even though probation numbers are higher than what they were in 2012, a very small number of individuals on presumptive probation – less than one percent – committed a violent crime and were sent to prison.

A similar arrangement for earned parole time was established under the law. Parolees last year earned hundreds of thousands of days in parole credit. Since passage of the Public Safety Improvement Act, more parolees are being successfully monitored within their communities.

A total of 540 individuals have completed substance abuse treatment created by the Act. In fact, our treatment completion rate is 11percent higher than the national average. Because of the reforms, more offenders are receiving the help they need through drug and DUI courts. More mothers and fathers are able to stay in their communities and provide for their children. 

These are tremendous accomplishments, and I am proud of our work. Still, there are areas where we would like to see more improvement. The total prison population is lower than it would have been without the reforms, but it is higher than our projections had predicted. We need to understand why this is happening and determine if it can be addressed. 

One particular area of concern is the regional increase in meth trafficking, which South Dakota and neighboring states have experienced over the past seven or eight years. Like our neighbors, South Dakota is seeing more meth-related arrests and convictions. While the Public Safety Improvement Act was not designed to address drug trafficking, we need to consider whether our practices need to adapt to address the growing number of drug-related incarcerations. 

I have invited a group of stakeholders to work on these issues. They represent law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys, corrections, and the court system. These stakeholders are in the process of reviewing the data and they will make recommendations to me on how to further improve our criminal justice system. With their help, I am confident we will find solutions to make South Dakota a safer place. 

Just as we all tend to overlook our own shortcomings, some politicians tend to defend their programs at all costs. I have tried to do the opposite. I define success by studying the data and facts, not anecdotes and feelings, and I’m always willing to consider new information. The Public Safety Improvement Act has achieved much success, but it could be better. As always, we are working to do what we can to achieve a complete success.

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8 thoughts on “Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Criminal Justice Reform Update

  1. Nonymouse

    A stubborn man is walking upon the train tracks and fails to hear the train approaching until it is far too late. Suprisingly the crumpled and torn man is still alive when the emergency responders arrive. When asked how he is doing, the stubborn man responds, “Never better, but the train should have watched where it was going.” As you ponder the story, ask yourself who the stubborn man is, who is the train, and what is to be done. Certainly people across the State felt the train in and around Pierre on both the adult and juvenile justice reform acts. Yet, have these reforms actually provided us with any societal benefits? Is having less felons in jail the right thing? Are we covering up a long term problem with short term fixes? Maybe we should build a new prison rather than keeping people out. Maybe meth useage can be stopped with some class time rather than incarceration. Maybe we ought to no longer treat the ingestion of controlled substances as a felony, but a misdemeanor, and lock up the offender in county jails. 10 days in the County jail should fix up the offender, and make them right as rain. Again, who is the stubborn man, who is the train, and what is to be done.

  2. Anonymous

    Were all the murders and robberies in Rapid City facts or anecdotes? And, are all the robberies and burglaries in Sioux Falls data or feelings?

    Just another liberal idiot. His tenure in Pierre is the EB-5, Gear-up, murders up, taxes up, Bruce Jenner, Black Elk administration.

    1. Anonymous

      Jackley supported it. If he wouldn’t have supported it then the legislature would not have so unanimously passed it. He is contorting himself so badly on this issue.

      Who’s in charge of the county association? Talk about a total fail on their part.

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t know if this is a good law or a bad law but because Jackley is doing a 180 on it that tells me it doesn’t fit with the tough on crime narrative he is selling and that his state’s attorney friends really hate it.

    Mickelson is much more liberal than I want but Jackley is always second guessing and contradicting himself. That doesn’t make him look strong.

  4. District 3 Democrats Against Heidelberger

    I hope the Legislature & Governor modify the Juvenile Justice Reform that came into effect this upcoming Legislative session. What came into effect has no teeth in helping make a course correction for these kids and holding them accountable for their actions.

    It is really bad for the victims in seeking restitution. The parents should also share the financial responsibility which can also help change their behavior.

    The bad behavior and harassment of the victims can continue with no real consequences.

    The probation officers hands are tied and are very frustrated. They have very limited options now. How can they effectively help these kids with 100 cases each? My sympathy goes out to them.

    It is very difficult for the victims to get answers from the states attorney’s office and clerk of courts in regards to what the specifics were as to payment schedule, minimum amount, and other info in regards to restitution.

    It seems under the new current system the kids can be running the program which is ripe for abuse and further reinforces their bad behavior. It does not help these kids, victims, parents and society.

    We need changes quick!

  5. District 3 Democrats Against Heidelberger

    correction : The bad behavior and harassment of the juveniles toward the victims can continue with no real consequences.