Drug court planned for Davison CountyDrug courts are showing promise in the more effective sentencing and treatment of drug and alcohol abusers, Davison County State’s Attorney Pat Smith told county commissioners.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
A drug court may be in Davison County’s future.
Davison County State’s Attorney Pat Smith told the county commissioners Tuesday during their regular weekly meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell that drug courts are showing promise in the more effective sentencing and treatment of drug and alcohol abusers. Officials are looking at ways of dealing with an expanding prison population, he said.
“It’s really not so much a ‘court’ as a sentencing alternative,” Smith said. “It’s an effort to get the addicted out of prison and into an intensive support program.”
The program targets only non-violent offenders, he said. Deputy State’s Attorney Bob O’Keefe, in a later telephone interview, said drug courts are a nationwide movement.
He described it as an “intensive probation program” in which offenders come to court weekly for a review of their case.
The program is 16-20 weeks in length, depending on how well the offender responds. The court can tailor its requirements to the needs of the individual offender, he said.
It’s also a tough alternative, Smith said, because offenders face prison time if they don’t follow program requirements.
“It’s a better alternative than warehousing people and sending them back into society,” said Smith, who noted that South Dakota’s existing drug courts are working well.
“We’re optimistic about getting a drug court going in Davison County,” said Ron Freeman, deputy chief court services officer for the First Judicial Circuit. A drug court is scheduled to start in Yankton in the first quarter of 2013 and is tentatively scheduled to start in Mitchell in July 2013.
“It gets offenders back into society and working to support themselves rather than living off the government so much,” Freeman said.
Chief Justice David Gilbertson, of the South Dakota Supreme Court, has been an advocate for the creation of more drug courts in the state, Freeman said.
“They’ve been in existence around us for some time, and they have proven to be successful.”
There is a drug court operating in Sturgis. Another in Sioux Falls was established to deal with meth addicts and is expanding to handle other substance abusers, and there is also a DUI court in Pierre, originally established to deal with alcohol-related offenses, which is also expanding.
Freeman said funding is the biggest problem facing the establishment of the new programs. Smith agreed.
“We’re not going to be doing the program without more court services officers,” Smith said.
The commissioners on Tuesday OK’d travel expenses for Smith to attend the South Dakota Bar Association Convention in Rapid City and attend a presentation on criminal law, and for O’Keefe to visit Sturgis and see a drug court in operation.
Smith said the drug court program shows promise because it offers a personal touch with a weekly contact and follow-up. The program, he said, expects offenders to change their routines and to be accountable.
Planning and Development
In other business Tuesday, Planning and Development District III Executive Director Greg Henderson, who annually reports to the members of the planning district, told the commissioners that district membership has received $66 in benefits for every dollar invested.
The planning district helps counties and communities with planning and mapping needs and with grant application assistance.
From 1973 to 2011, the county paid out $490,769 and received $32,368,769 in grants and related assistance, Henderson said.
In the past year, the district provided assistance to 65 business clients in Davison County through the Small Business Development Center that resulted in $2.73 million in new private investment.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners:
• Approved the expenditure of $1,750 for regular elevator testing with KONE Elevators, of Sioux Falls.
• Approved the payment of up to $6,766 to GeoTek, of Sioux Falls, for a site survey of potential hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint at the Central Electric building on North Main Street. A portion of the building will be renovated for use of the county’s community health nurses. Mark Puetz said Puetz Corp. staff can’t proceed with interior design plans until the extent of asbestos is known. The 1960s-vintage building is known to have vinyl asbestos floor tile, but Puetz said it’s not clear if the building’s textured ceilings also contain asbestos. “That would be a larger concern for us,” he said.
• Approved malt beverage license renewals for the Kongo Klub, north of Mitchell, and Mike’s Corner, near Ethan.
• Approved a $400 supplement to the Geographic Information Systems (mapping) budget.
• At the direction of Welfare Director Dawn Grissom, approved a final payment of $71,568.77 to settle indigent hospital bills with Avera Queen of Peace Hospital for 2010. The county spent a total of $146,859 on patients who couldn’t pay their bills in 2010 and, to date, has spent about $10,000 more in 2011, though all final 2011 bills have not been tallied.
• Approved the hire of Susan Hunt as a Deputy 3 in the treasurer’s office at a rate of $10 an hour.