Daugaard: lower inmate population, save taxpayer money - KOTA Territory News

Daugaard: lower inmate population, save taxpayer money

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There are 3,600 prison inmates in South Dakota and state leaders say that number will increase 25% in the next decade.
Wednesday Governor Dennis Daugaard and state leaders are launching a joint effort to cut costs by re-examining the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Pennington county sheriff Kevin Thom has noticed every year, his jail houses more and more prisoners.

"We clearly recognize there are people who need to be warehoused, there's no other place for them, that's where they need to be,"said Thom.

"There's also a group that offends that maybe is low risk, non violent offender, that we can hold accountable and keep the public safe more efficiently than put them behind bars," said Governor Dennis Daugaard.

South Dakota state officials are hoping an intensive study will answer some pressing questions. Most importantly: how to curb a growing and costly inmate population.

"Our corrections budget is now over $100 million per year. we'd like to spend those dollars on education, economic development," said Daugaard.

"1$ out of every $5 of your general fund dollars are going to corrections," said South Dakota State Senator Russell Olsen.

The first step is examine how repeat offenders move through the system, and what other options are available to help them stay out.

"[The study] will look at causation in terms of what causes a parolee to come back to prison or what causes probation to fail," said Daugaard.

"One thing we're looking at in Pennington county, we're already doing electronic monitoring in juveniles, we're going to expand that this fall with our adult pop, so those in work release, hopefully we can put them on electronic monitoring, reducing our jail population," said Thom.

While no official timeline or projected cost savings have been released, those involved says the end goal is clear.

"If there are means by which we can improve public safety while saving the state money, that's what we need to do," said Daugaard.

Policy changes based on the study and work group meetings may be introduced during the next legislative session in 2013.

Officials say if nothing is done to stop the growing inmate population, a new women's prison would have to be built in the next four years. A men's prison would also have to be built in eight years...and the cost for those combined would be well over $120 million dollars.

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