Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Supporting Second Chances

Supporting Second Chances
By: Governor Kristi Noem
February 9, 2024

As I travel the state, the biggest challenge that I hear about is a shortage of workers. We’ve been taking action to fill open jobs. But for some folks, their past mistakes stand in the way of the career of their dreams.

During my State of the State Address, I discussed South Dakotans’ Freedom to Get a Second Chance. Specifically, I talked about legislation that I was working on with my Department of Labor and Regulation to provide second-chance licensing opportunities. I am proud that our legislature has now overwhelmingly passed that bipartisan bill, SB 57. And I have signed the bill into law. Photos from the bill signing can be found here.

For South Dakotans who get involved in drugs or another aspect of crime, that should not have to be the final word. Their punishment should match their crime, but they should also have the opportunity to rehabilitate and become better, more capable members of our society.

When individuals are ready to reenter society, we want them to have the opportunity to build a career so that they can provide for themselves and their families.

Last year, I worked with legislators and signed a bill to enhance workforce Freedom in South Dakota. That bill recognizes out-of-state licenses for nearly every profession. It cut unnecessary government red tape, making it easier for those moving to South Dakota to get to work right away.

This year’s second-chance licensing bill builds on that concept and applies it to a different population. It creates a set of standards to consider criminal histories and any possible rehabilitation by applicants and licensees. With this bill, we’re removing barriers preventing individuals from entering the workforce.

This important piece of legislation means that someone who made a dumb decision or a mistake in the past can still get a professional license for the job of their dreams today. It also means that individuals in our prison system can rehabilitate and successfully reenter our society, their community, and the workforce to create a better life for themselves.

I don’t think one, or even two, bad decisions should define someone for the rest of their live. And this bill gives people hope that they can still achieve the American Dream.

We need more plumbers, more electricians, more welders, and an unrelated criminal past shouldn’t stop qualified applicants from filling these roles.

This isn’t all we’re doing when it comes to second chances. Late last year, I spoke at a graduation for the Sixth Circuit Problem-Solving Court. Eight graduates, all of whom had been sober for a year or more, stood up and shared their stories and their hopes and dreams for the future. In fact, more than 150 South Dakotans graduated from this initiative last year. This is a rigorous program that includes five phases and requires frequent alcohol and drug testing. It’s a proven strategy that reduces recidivism, saves taxpayer dollars in the long-run, and restores hope and dignity for these individuals.

The people that I met at that graduation ceremony inspired me, they touched my heart. And I know there are so many people in our state that are just like them – that just need a second chance.

In South Dakota, everyone has the Freedom to Get a Second Chance.