OTHER VIEW: Gov. Daugaard’s strategy for reducing crime encouragingWith a promise to save money and make South Dakota safer, Gov. Dennis Daugaard indicated in his State of the State speech Tuesday that criminal justice reform is a priority in this legislative session.
By: Editorial board, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
With a promise to save money and make South Dakota safer, Gov. Dennis Daugaard indicated in his State of the State speech Tuesday that criminal justice reform is a priority in this legislative session.
Safely reducing the prison population and reducing repeat offender rates, as proposed by his administration, sound like two good initial steps to preventing our state from needing to build more prison space. His concern is warranted with our state’s growth in inmate numbers surpassing other states and an estimated cost of $200 million to build and operate additional prison space.
To his credit and after months of hard work listening to judges and others involved in how we handle those who violate state law, Daugaard had supporters on board even before the plan was released publicly. Some details include adding two more drug courts and piloting a new HOPE program for drug offenders similar to the 24/7 program for those monitored for alcohol offenses. Daugaard has looked at what has worked in other states and says South Dakota — where 80 percent of new prisoners are nonviolent offenders — won’t be soft on crime but will be smart about it.
Without all of the details, it is difficult to say if everything Daugaard proposes for criminal justice reform eventually will make it through the House and Senate. Maybe there are suggestions that lawmakers and others will think of to make his ideas even better.
But what is encouraging is that Daugaard has worked upfront on the issue and included experts and those who work in criminal justice before proposing changes. That could be in part sensitivity to last session when educators complained that they were not included in the process until after plans were announced.
In South Dakota, all services such as education and prisons compete for money in a limited, balanced-budget approach. The criminal justice reform ideas brought forward, which include sentencing instead of just addressing what to do with someone once they are incarcerated, are a good start. In his speech, Daugaard focused on crime without tackling education and other initiatives. We’re sure that is intentional, and yet those topics will get discussed during the time lawmakers are working in Pierre. It’s all part of a long-standing budgeting process. We’re interested in hearing more.