SD Legislature set to take deep dive into corrections system this summer

The South Dakota state legislature is set to look at different ways to improve the state's correctional facilities over the summer.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:27 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota state legislature is set to devote a significant amount of time and resources to attempting to fix problems with the state’s correctional facilities.

Over the summer, three different committees will meet to discuss topics having to do with the state’s corrections system.

The three committees will cover the Incarceration Construction Fund, Juvenile Justice, and Regional Jails and State Correctional Plans.

“The legislature started digging into this topic last year, we started realizing there were a lot of different component parts to it,” said State Rep. Will Mortenson (R-Pierre). Mortenson is slated to serve on the Incarceration Construction Fund committee. “There are the state prisons, the county jails, and juveniles. What do we do there, for teenagers that can’t stop breaking the rules?”

The extra attention comes at a time where the state’s Department of Corrections itself continues to come under scrutiny, and came under new leadership recently as a result.

“The Senate certainly recognizes the need to improve our state’s physical prison infrastructure,” said State Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen). Rohl will serve on the Regional Jails and State Correctional Plans committee. “We have those same problems at our county level, and we have a goal of creating synergies that will save both the state and the counties millions of dollars. However, we want to make sure we do it right, so we want to make sure we look into our youth criminal justice systems to create a more stable rehabilitation process.”

The problems that have plagued the correctional system in South Dakota range from pay for prison guards, to the food that inmates are eating.

“Whether we need expansions or upgrades, things like treatment and programming that are done in the prison can’t really happen when it is full to the brim,” said Mortenson. “So for me especially, taking a close look at our prisons, especially the Women’s prison here in Pierre, is a major priority for me.”

Those committees will begin meeting at the beginning of June.

Full list of committee members are linked below:

Legislative Task Force on Incarceration Construction Fund

Study Committee on Juvenile Justice

Study Committee on Regional Jails and State Correctional Plans

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