Proposed criminal justice reform could save state millions - KOTA Territory News

Proposed criminal justice reform could save state millions


The lack of education funding is sure to be the hot topic discussed during the Governor's Budget address tomorrow.

But the cost savings associated with the proposed Criminal Justice Reform- could be a close second.

"This is about being smart with our money and effective with our resources," said Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom.

Resources to help curb a growing and costly inmate population.

"The cost of doing nothing today is 224 million dollars over the next ten years. That's building two new facilities and the cost of running those two facilities. When you can take the some of the money you save a reinvest it back into the system," said Thom.

Reinvest and reinvent the system with the proposed Criminal Justice Reform.

A State Panel released a report that found 45 percent of inmates released on parole wind up back in prison within three years; and the majority of the state's inmates are nonviolent offenders.

"When they are not a threat to our society or to other people, putting them in prison I'm not sure is the most cost effective way of helping them or society at large," said Representative David Lust, Republican Majority Leader.

To create a more effective and cost efficient system -the State Panel recommends an expansion of programs that keep drug and alcohol offenders out of prison by placing them in intensive treatment programs.

"Using things like alternative sentencing the drug courts, the 24/7 program similar programs which are less expensive then incarceration and more effective," said Lust.

"If we use the highest level of intervention first then what are we going to do after that, so using the least restrictive alternative available across the board is always the most important to look at," said Liz Heidelberger, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Coordinator.

The bottom line:state leaders say the changes are a win-win for everyone.

"Our job is to be smart with the taxpayer's money and if there's a better way to do business, by all means we should look at it. And in the process if we improve public safety, hold offenders responsible and reduce spending, it's a success," said Thom.

Lawmakers are hopeful that in tomorrow's budget address South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard will announce his support for the reform.

And back that with some funding to get the ball rolling.


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