Pennington County reaching out to reservations to resolve outstanding warrants
Many of the results of Pennington County's ambitious goal to reduce its jail population by 20 percent won't be felt for years. But one initiative that's part of the overall plan is bearing fruit today on area reservations.
It's the Warrant Resolution outreach effort by the Pennington county State's Attorney's office in Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River and Rosebud territory and it's being run with funding from a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge Grant.
Deputy States Attorney Carolyn Oslon drives to the reservations and meets with people to work through their issues. Many people just cant make it from the reservation to a court date.
People like Rachel Bissonette who got into a fender bender in Rapid City last year. With no proof of insurance she got a ticket. When she failed to appear in court over the issue, a warrant was issued for her arrest.
"I know when you do have a warrant they automatically take you to jail and so sometimes I'd be out with friends or family and I'd be nervous," she said about living under the cloud of the warrant.
Working with Olson she was able to take care of the warrant by showing the vehicle was insured.
"Now I feel great," she says. "I feel OK. I don't have any worries."
Oslon says that some warrants may still require a court appearance and that there is no cookie-cutter solution to each case but she wants to identify situations that simply don't need to turn into big problems.
"We see this every day in the Pennington County court system where somebody gets a minor traffic offense and then fails to appear in court," says Olson. "Once they miss that hearing a bench warrant is issued.
We're trying to prevent that snowball situation ... they're afraid to come back."
Erik Bringswhite is the community coordinator for the program on Pine Ridge. He sees real value in the bridges people are building and the trust that grows from it.
"Conversation is key in dispelling mistrust," he says. "When people feel heard, a healing begins."
The Pennington County State's Attorney office has set up a hotline to call if you would like to discuss an outstanding warrant you may have. The number is (800) 262-2149.