South Dakota Moves to Protect its Communities—and its Bottom Line.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard recently signed into law a criminal justice reform package including probation and parole reforms that will keep South Dakotans safe, get the most out of their tax dollars, and hold offenders accountable while getting them the programs they need to successfully reintegrate into society. South Dakota took large strides toward holding each and every dollar of their criminal justice system accountable for public safety results.
South Dakota’s corrections spending has tripled over the past two decades and, despite the fact that the state’s prison population has grown from a few hundred inmates to more than 3,600, more than four in every ten offenders return to prison within three years of their release.
Criminal justice spending should give taxpayers a better public safety return on every dollar spent and be held accountable for results. By concentrating resources on higher-risk offenders through earned discharge, South Dakota will strengthen probation and parole and allow officers to focus on the individuals most likely to reoffend or to be a danger to the community. Allowing low-risk offenders to earn their way off supervision by adhering to specific goals and guidelines is a powerful positive incentive that motivates offenders to change their behavior.
In addition, allowing probation and parole officers to employ swift, certain, and proportionate sanctions will deter criminal behavior and reduce the rate at which offenders return to prison. The immediate and certain response helps prevent or erase the mentality that offenders can break the rules without consequences. Swift and certain sanctions can provide appropriate punishment and save taxpayer dollars by helping to prevent long and costly prison stays for minor violations. In addition, positive reinforcement, such as time off active supervision or reduced reporting requirements, can incentivize offenders to stay on track. Combined, these responses can have an enormous effect on decreasing the rate of return to jail or prison – saving dollars and reducing crime.
Some have voiced concern that these reforms will reduce public safety, but that is not the case. In the past ten years, 17 states have lowered their incarceration rates and have also lowered their crime rates by an average of 18 percent. It is clear that higher spending and incarceration rates do not necessarily mean increased public safety.
South Dakota has taken the step to implement policies that draw on over 25 years of research and practice and has recognized that, like all areas of government spending, state criminal justice systems must be held accountable and implement programs proven to protect our communities.