Governor’s Column – Criminal Justice Reform Update

Post Date: February 3, 2014

A column by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard: 

Nearly two years ago, I became aware of a problem with our state’s criminal justice system. I learned South Dakota’s imprisonment rate was higher than any of its six neighboring states. Per capita, we were locking up 75 percent more men than North Dakota and four times as many women as Minnesota. Maintaining the status quo would mean building a new women’s prison and a new men’s prison within the next 10 years.  

I also learned our high imprisonment rate probably wasn’t making our public any safer. I saw that 17 states had lowered their imprisonment rate while simultaneously lowering their crime rate and that the crime rates in those states had fallen twice as fast as the crime rate in South Dakota. 

To address the problem, the Chief Justice, legislative leadership and I formed a work group.  We charged the work group with three goals: improve public safety, hold offenders more accountable and reduce corrections spending. Last legislative session, the Legislature passed and I signed the work group’s proposal into law. 

To focus prison space on violent and career criminals, the reforms restructured our sentencing framework for non-violent offenders and included new or improved probation accountability programs including Drug and Alcohol Courts. We also made the largest investment in the history of our state into behavioral health for offenders with addictions and mental health needs. Read more