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Hotels being considered for some SD parolees

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A group working on criminal justice reforms in South Dakota has broached the idea of putting some parolees in Sioux Falls hotels as they transition back to society, but local officials don't like the idea.

Many South Dakota prison inmates with no money for housing start out on parole by staying in minimum-security correctional facilities run by the state. The working group created under Gov. Dennis Daugaard's initiative to treat more offenders through programs outside prison walls has suggested placing some of them in Sioux Falls hotels instead, with four men to a room.

Some city and Minnehaha County officials are skeptical that such a plan could succeed, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.

"I wouldn't put four college guys in a motel room and necessarily expect good behavior," County Commissioner Jeff Barth said.

The hotel proposal is just one being considered, and details have not even been worked out, said state Board of Pardons and Paroles Executive Director Ed Ligtenberg.

"Nothing is solid at this point. The work group is working on plans, how this could be a pilot program in Sioux Falls, with the idea if it works in Sioux Falls, there could be other places around the state where we could copy the model," he said. "We haven't checked with local hotels to see if that is a possibility. As far as putting a number in a room, that also hasn't been determined."

City Councilwoman Michelle Erpenbach called news of the plan "a holy cow moment."

"This really is for real. I didn't hear it as an anecdote," she said. "I heard it as seriously talking about four parolees per hotel room."

Motel owner Tim Nicolai said safety is not the only consideration — there also is a financial aspect.

"I'm pretty sure motel owners are not going to go for this," he said. "We can see losses written all over the walls."