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Jackley: 24/7 program paved way for change

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley visits with The Daily Republic editorial board Friday in Mitchell. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)

South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety program helped pave the way for the recently passed reforms to the state's criminal justice system, Attorney General Marty Jackley said Friday.

The 24/7 Sobriety program, which was started in 2005 under then-Attorney General Larry Long, subjects certain offenders with alcohol or other addictions to various forms of intense supervision, including twice-a-day breathalyzer tests, alcohol monitoring through the use of electronic ankle bracelets, drug patch testing and urine testing.

Since the program was implemented, Jackley said incidents of drunken driving in the state have declined by 12 percent and incidents of domestic violence have declined by 9 percent.

Jackley credited the success of Senate Bill 70 -- legislation this winter including major reforms to South Dakota's criminal justice system -- partially to the established success of the 24/7 Sobriety program.

"It has shown the Legislature and the public that these programs do work," Jackley said in a discussion with The Daily Republic's editorial board.

The reforms included in Senate Bill 70 will give more nonviolent offenders the chance to be treated with intensive probation, parole and other programs instead of prison.

The reforms are also meant to reduce the state's prison population.

The 24/7 Sobriety program is funded by those enrolled in it, which Jackley said proves programs like it can be cost effective and still successful in supervising and treating offenders.

As a prosecutor, Jackley said he was initially hesitant about supporting the plan to reform the criminal justice system.

"As time went on, though, It became obvious that we did have the opportunity to improve things," he said.

Though the reforms give anyone convicted of low-level drug crimes the opportunity to stay out of jail, it also gives prosecutors the ability to seek more severe penalties for those convicted of manufacturing or distributing drugs, Jackley said.

"We received the hammers that we asked for," he said.

The reforms also include an expansion of the drug court system in South Dakota, which gives offenders convicted of low-level drug crimes the opportunity to seek treatment outside of a county jail or state penitentiary. One such drug court is planned for Mitchell.