MacArthur Foundation grants more for local criminal justice system reform

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The MacArthur Foundation awarded the Pennington County Sheriff's Office and the Seventh Circuit Court a continuation grant of $1.2 million for the next two years to continue efforts in local criminal justice system reform and reduce the jail population in Pennington County.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Judge Craig Pfeifle of the Seventh Circuit Court announce the grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

So far, the MacArthur Foundation has awarded Pennington County $3.55 million.

This grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $217 million initiative across the country aimed at reducing over-incarceration as well as racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems.

A partnership of local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, judges, and community members developed a comprehensive plan for reform strategies.

In Pennington County, the three of the main areas being focused on are issues of racial disparity, case processing, and the continuation of tribal outreach.

"Our goal was to, you know, safely reduce our county jail population by 20% and also look at our disproportionate minority contact, which in our case, is our Native American population," said Kevin Thom, Pennington County Sheriff.

While looking to reduce the jail population and be cognizant of racial disparities, officials also want to have alternatives to jail for lower-level offenders.

"What we're doing is a number of different initiatives to ensure that we maintain public safety and best utilize the limited resources that Pennington County has in it's jail," said Craig Pfeifle, presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit Court. "It's designed to make sure that we incarcerate those folks that present the largest public safety risk and that we provide some other opportunities for lower-level offenders that is not only beneficial to them personally, but to their families."

Thom said he appreciates the MacArthur Foundation's support of counties because they are often over-looked in the national conversation.