South Dakota spends about $100 million on its prisons each year. On its current trajectory, prison populations in the state would swell by 25 percent, requiring two new prisons, and tacking on $224 million over the next decade.
Just like Texas lawmakers who chose to hold the line back in 2005, South Dakotans are now looking for another way: a more effective criminal justice system that protects the public safety without unnecessary costs.
Lawmakers are convening with judges, agency staff, and other stakeholders in the Criminal Justice Initiative work group to consider why South Dakota has a much higher incarceration rate than its neighboring states, what local initiatives are successful in that state, and whether procedural streamlining would aid the system.
Similar efforts across the nation have saved millions while increasing public safety as measured by crime rates. South Dakota is wise to join the trend.