Local lawmakers instrumental in criminal justice reform bill - KOTA Territory News

Local lawmakers instrumental in criminal justice reform bill

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At the start of the 2013 legislative session Tuesday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard addressed the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform.
 
It comes on the heels of more than a dozen  recommendations by a legislative work group on crime.

"The charge to this workgroup could not have been simpler," Daugaard said in his State of the State address.

The group was tasked with improving public safety, holding offenders more accountable and producing a better return on criminal justice spending.

"It's about being smart on crime," he said.

Specifically, his plan takes aim at drug offenders.

"It definitely will be a priority," said newly-elected Speaker of the House Brian Gosch, a Republican from Rapid City.

Gosch served on the workgroup and helped file the Public Safety Improvement Act just minutes after Daugaard's address.

"There's a lot of detail that [Daugaard] wasn't able to get into due to time constraints that'll come out as the weeks go along," Gosch said.

Among the details that did come out, the bill would strengthen drug courts and monitoring programs to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail.

"In turn that will save money which we can reinvest," said Rep. Jacqueline Sly, also a Rapid City Republican, and also a member of the workgroup.

How much money will it save? The governor estimated $200 million dollars over 10 years.

"Prison is an expensive place to change offender behavior," Daugaard told legislators.

He said the state's spending on jails has tripled over the last two decades.

"Our approach isn't better," he said.

It gets worse: South Dakota will need new men's and women's prisons to house the estimated 25 percent inmate increase over the next decade.

With the support of state law enforcement groups, lawmakers are confident criminal justice reform will take hold this session.

"You have to start somewhere," Sly said, "and I think this is a good start for South Dakota."

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