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Judicial task force suggests diversion programs, flexibility for young adults


A judicial task force is recommending the state expand programs and practices aimed at helping juvenile offenders to include young adults.

The Barriers for Emerging Adults Task Force released its final report at its meeting Thursday. The goal of the task force is to identify issues facing "emerging adults" in the justice system - adults between the ages of 18 and 25 - who may have a greater potential for rehabilitation but face barriers.

The report included five recommendations for lawmakers.

One recommendation suggested allowing more flexibility when it comes to developing new diversion programs. The task force found state law can be restrictive when it comes to developing these programs, focusing heavily on evidence-based results. The report said relying on this method can be costly as it requires lengthy studies and may stifle new ideas.

The task force also suggested funding diversion programs for young adults similar to those that have proven effective for juveniles. Criminal records can act as a barrier in many areas, including applying for jobs or college. The report suggested offering programs like mentoring or behavioral health services for nonviolent offenders to help them avoid criminal charges.

The other recommendations included prioritizing training for court staff on emerging adult behavior, supporting cognitive behavior treatment and skill building, and consider broader practice changes across the justice system. The full report is available online.

Legislators will consider these recommendations during the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 9.

Josh Chilson is the news director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A Florence, S.D. native, Josh graduated with a journalism degree from South Dakota State University. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and videographer, and most recently as managing editor for Dakota News Now. Josh is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.