DAUGAARD: Taking on the meth problem
I recently heard a story about a young man who was exposed to meth as a child. The young man, named Chris, grew up around meth and the violence that the drug brings. Like any normal kid, he wanted attention from the adults in his life. But while most kids are trying to gain approval by getting good grades, making the basketball team or winning a role in the school play, at 12 years old Chris began to use and deal meth to receive that attention. Using and dealing led Chris to get into fights and to start stealing. At age 17, Chris overdosed.
Meth is a problem in South Dakota. Like other states, we are seeing an increase in methamphetamine trafficking and more meth-related arrests and convictions. To address the epidemic, we need to stop meth from coming into our state, prevent meth use and help those who are addicted.
I am joining with the attorney general to propose a joint drug interdiction task force, comprised of four new Highway Patrol officers, joined by designated agents of the Division of Criminal Investigation.
The attorney general and the Department of Social Services are also both focused on educating young people about meth, and a legislative interim committee considered this issue as well. Starting this year, the managers of state anti-meth programs will meet regularly to coordinate these efforts and maximize their impact.
For those who are on probation or parole, I am proposing measures to reinforce good behavior and to punish bad behavior. We will establish a mandatory sanction of required jail time for anyone on probation or parole who fails a drug test. This will guarantee swift and certain sanctions for offenders who choose to use drugs. Conversely, to help those who are already addicted to meth, I am proposing we incentivize effective completion of treatment. We will allow supervision to be terminated early for parolees and probationers who stay clean, complete treatment and don’t violate the terms of their supervision for at least a year. Offenders who complete all court-ordered treatment within one year will be given one opportunity to reduce a drug possession or ingestion charge from a felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor. This option would only be available once for each offender.
I am also recommending grants to expand HOPE 24/7 Probation to all counties. HOPE 24/7 is similar to the successful 24/7 program for alcohol offenders. HOPE 24/7 has been implemented in ten counties, and provides intensive probation and treatment for serious drug offenders, who are required to take random drug tests to ensure that they stay clean.
Meth is an extremely addictive drug that ruins homes and destroys lives. Meth changes brain functions and affects the central nervous system. Those who use the drug may experience paranoia, delusions, severe tooth decay and skin sores. Trying meth just once can lead to death.
Thankfully, the young man I described is still with us, and he has been sober for a year now. When Chris moved to South Dakota, he was arrested for having drugs in his vehicle and placed in the juvenile justice system. That is where his journey to recovery began.
These reforms have the potential to help those who, like Chris, enter the criminal justice system because of a drug addiction. There will be more opportunities for offenders to receive help and fight the vicious family cycle of drug abuse. The proposals will save our taxpayers money, make our communities safer and, ultimately, bring more South Dakotans to begin the journey to recovery.