Juvenile diversion program showing successes in first year for Davison County

Davison courthouse 2.JPG

Davison County’s first foray into having a juvenile diversion program for young individuals is paying early dividends, officials said Tuesday.

In the span of about 10 months, the county has had about 60 young people complete the first-year diversion program since it was created in late 2019. Of those individuals, 95% have been considered to have successfully completed their responsibilities, which includes completing a four-month educational program and meeting the expectations of juvenile court judges and Katie Buschbach, the county’s Youth Diversion Coordinator working in the Davison County State’s Attorney’s office.

The program is being funded by three years worth of state grants — 2021's grant is almost $70,000 — and is built toward providing a positive direction to juveniles who are cited for minor offenses, rather than sending them to a juvenile detention center. The update was shared during Tuesday’s Davison County Commission meeting in Mitchell.

Buschbach said there’s a financial advantage to how the program is being handled, because the state is offering reimbursement for some costs. So far, the county is expecting to be reimbursed about $14,000 for the cases the county has handled through the program.

One day in a juvenile detention center in Sioux Falls, Buschbach said, costs the county $236, and kids will usually be there a few weeks. In a case in which a juvenile gets a conditional release and the county feels they can still be a part of the community without posing a serious risk of reoffending, the juvenile might meet with a judge and receive an ankle monitor, allowing them to continue living with their family and going to school.


The county is also reimbursed for about half the cost per day of an ankle monitor, and Buschbach said Davison County had one juvenile on an ankle monitor in the month of June. She estimates the county saved almost $10,000 in each month of July and August by using ankle monitors and not sending individuals to juvenile detention.

The program has also partnered with the Mitchell Recreation Center to hold an evening reporting center in the facility at no cost to the county, allowing juveniles to utilize the Rec Center’s offerings while making contacts with those individuals with pro-social activities and keeping them on track to attend court hearings and not committing delinquent offenses while their case is pending.

“It’s a tribute to the quality of the programming she has discovered,” State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins said of Buschbach and the program. “Katie really strengthened our working relationship with the city and the people in the Rec Center.”

It comes during a period when local law enforcement has seen an increase in juveniles committing crimes. Miskimins said the county “might have spent more on juvenile detention in July than we have in any other month before.”

But he said the county has received positive reinforcement about the local Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative program, with one official telling Miskimins that the county is making progress because “we’re not locking up kids because we’re mad at them.”

This is the second of a three-year funding program, at which the county and the community will likely be challenged to provide its own funding. Miskimins said all parties involved will need to lean on civic groups and private fundraising to help sustain the program after the state grant support ends.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota Juvenile Justice Oversight Council said that more than 1,900 juveniles participated in a diversion program in 2019, but the number of individuals who had successfully completed the program was up to 84%, compared to 77% in 2018. The program, which is in five counties currently, is on track to expand to three more in the next year, Miskimins said.

Buschbach is helping to organize a development and training event on Sept. 29-30 at the Davison County Fairgrounds focused on positive youth development as it relates to juvenile justice. The event, which is also sponsored by the South Dakota Unified Judicial System and the Annie Casey Foundation is targeted toward law enforcement, nonprofit staff, school personnel, corrections officers and counselors, with a goal of creating a “shift in mindset and practice for juvenile justice workers” in how they work with youth and their families.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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