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SD working with tribe on joint parole program

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SD working with tribe on joint parole program
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

By Chet Brokaw

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PIERRE (AP) — South Dakota officials are working with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate to set up a joint program that would supervise Native Americans who want to serve parole on tribal land after being released from a state prison, officials said Monday.

The pilot program, part of an extensive overhaul of the state's criminal justice system, is aimed at helping more Native American offenders successfully complete parole, state Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk told a special panel of legislators, judges and state officials that's overseeing the overhaul.

Once a final agreement is made to establish the project with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in northeastern South Dakota, a second one could be set up with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the north-central part of the state, Kaemingk said.

"We would someday like to see all the tribes be involved," he said.

The South Dakota Legislature passed a law this year that changes the way the courts, prisons and other agencies handle nonviolent offenders, seeking to treat more offenders through intensive probation, parole and other programs outside of prison.

Officials have said if nothing is done to curb a rapid increase in adult inmates, the state would have to spend an estimated $212 million to build and operate and new men's prison and a new women's prison in the next decade. The new programs will cost an estimated $51 million, officials said.

About two-thirds of Native Americans wind up returning to prison within three years of their release, Kaemingk said. He said that in June, the state had a list of 216 inmates who had disappeared while on parole, and 144 were Native Americans, he said.

A large portion of them were in larger cities and were thought to have gone to tribal reservations, where the state has no jurisdiction, Kaemingk said.

"Many Native American offenders say they simply want to go home, and many do," Kaemingk said.

Deputy Corrections Secretary Laurie Feiler said about three-quarters of South Dakota's parolees earned time off their sentences in the first four months of a new program that's also part of the criminal justice overhaul.

For every month a parolee has good behavior, a month is taken off their sentences. That incentive helped cut the number of people on parole from 2,802 in July to 2,613 in November, she said.

Meanwhile, parole agents are being trained to work with the new system, which establishes graduated penalties for different levels of parole violations, Feiler said.

State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn said the state Supreme Court has passed rules setting up a similar system that reduces probation time for offenders who behave themselves when they are put on probation instead of being sent to prison. That system will take effect Jan. 1.

Amy Iversen-Pollreisz said the state Social Services Department has selected providers to run additional programs to help offenders deal with substance abuse and change their thought patterns away from crime. The department also is working to set up pilot programs to provide such help in rural areas, she said.

Also, Attorney General Marty Jackley's office is developing an automated system that will use mail, telephone calls, emails and text messages to notify crime victims about changes in the status of offenders who hurt them. Because of the system's complexity, it is not scheduled to start until 2015.

Associated Press