Sheriff: New law could put pressure on jailBrink says more local space may be needed as state reduces prison numbers.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink told the county commissioners Tuesday at the courthouse in Mitchell that a state plan to reduce prison inmate numbers could have the opposite effect at the county level.
“County jails are going to get real busy,” he predicted, and added that other area sheriffs and jail administrators feel likewise.
Senate Bill 70, which was signed into law Feb. 2 by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, seeks to reduce inmate populations and recidivism by increasing drug treatment and parole options outside of state prisons for nonviolent offenders.
“Putting more people out in parole and probation is a good idea,” Brink said, “but my experience is that people don’t always behave.”
Brink doesn’t believe the jail population will increase immediately. The jail increases, if they do occur, will happen a year or two after the new drug and parole procedures start, he said.
“If they’re on parole and they get into trouble -- instead of going back to prison -- they’re probably going to come to county jail for a while.”
If a jail population increase does happen, Brink said, he doesn’t want it to be a surprise to the commissioners.
Tony Venhuizen, a spokesman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said there is assistance for counties in the new law, including vigorous tracking of inmate numbers and $1 million to help counties that see an increase in felony probationers during the first few years of implementation.
“Parole numbers will go down if the prison population goes down,” Venhuizen said in an email after The Daily Republic sought his reaction to Brink’s comments. “Based on results in other states that have undertaken similar efforts, we expect that jail utilization should stabilize, and may even decline, as earned discharge, improved treatment and sentencing changes for nonviolent crimes take effect. Tracking these numbers should give us a clear picture.”
Also, Venhuizen said, it's worth noting that the state Department of Corrections already reimburses counties for jail costs whenever parolees in DOC custody find themselves in county jail for violating their parole.
The Davison County Jail, which was built in 1995, has a 72-prisoner maximum capacity in four pods. One pod, however, must be reserved for women, which places pressure on other the other three pods. At any given time, the jail has about 15 to 20 county prisoners, but it also houses prisoners from some surrounding counties.
“When we get get around 50 to 55 inmates, we’re pretty crowded,” he said.
Brink said the jail could use a maximum security pod for dangerous inmates and it also needs space to handle juvenile offenders, since they can’t be exposed to the regular prison population.
“We’ve got the land, but a building costs money,” he said.
The county has been transporting juvenile offenders to other counties with juvenile holding facilities.
He said he will begin researching grant funds that could help with future expansion efforts, should they be needed.
Brink said he broached the topic to prepare the commissioners and not to “bad-mouth” the state’s new approach.
“I totally understand what the governor or the Legislature is trying to do, and I don’t disagree with it, but when you change something on one side of the fence, something has to change on the other side, too, and I’m afraid we may be part of the change that will make us more busy,” Brink said.
In other business, the commissioners:
Opened, with Weed Supervisor Clayton Wells, bids on assorted herbicides from three companies: Crop Production Services, of Spearfish; Hefty Seed, of Baltic; and Agronomy Plus, of Mitchell. The bids were tabled until next week pending a closer examination of the bids and a recommendation from Wells.
Approved, with a 4-1 vote, a raise for seasonal driver Lennis Laffey from $8.50 per hour to $9 an hour to haul water for spraying. Commissioner Denny Kiner, who dissented, had recommended a wage of $10 an hour for Laffey’s experience and dependability. Kiner also asked Wells to check on safety and eyewash equipment, for the county’s updated spray truck.
Gave Wells permission to advertise for part-time seasonal spray help. The wage will be determined later.
Accepted from Wells a check for $2,687.50 from a state noxious weed control grant for fiscal year 2013-14.
Noted they will this week be attending the spring meeting of the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners in Pierre.
Approved two raffle requests: a May 21 Davison County Democratic Party fundraiser; and a March 23-24 raffle to benefit the Ethan Historical Society.
Approved a final $146 disbursement to pay for a $1,100 CT scan for a mentally ill person.
Heard from Treasurer Christie Gunkel, who reported that during the month of February 80 people used the new automated vehicle registration kiosk at the County Fair Food Store on Havens Avenue. Gunkel said there were several complaints because the kiosk does not take Visa credit cards, but it does accept Discover cards and MasterCard.
Approved Sheriff Steve Brink’s request to move current civil deputy Ben Gant into a vacant deputy sheriff position at an hourly wage of $15.94, with a raise of 50 cents per hour after six months.
Approved the hire of Greg Nelson as a civil process server at a rate of $14.45 an hour with a raise of 50 cents an hour after six months. Nelson currently works part-time in the jail and part-time for the Hanson County Sheriff’s Office.
Sitting as the Board of Adjustment, approved a conditional use permit for Loiseau Construction for a temporary salvage yard to recycle concrete during the rebuilding of 14.3 miles of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 this summer from the James River to Mount Vernon. The temporary plant will be on the south side of the highway in Mount Vernon township.