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Drug Courts, Elder Abuse, Highlighted In State Of Judiciary


The Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court says challenges in the state’s judicial system are substantial, but not insurmountable.


Chief Justice David Gilbertson says the statewide network of drug and alcohol courts continues to grow and expand. He says nearly all larger towns in South Dakota have either a drug or alcohol court. He is requesting funding for a program in Brookings and other expansions. 
“I see two additional opportunities to keep addicts out of the penitentiary and restructure their lives so that they become useful citizens who pay taxes and support their families,” Gilbertson says. “First, I would like to see both alcohol and drug courts offered in each location where there is one or the other. You treat an alcoholic differently than you treat a drug addict.” 
Gilbertson would like more funding to accommodate more participants.
He also wants to focus on fighting elder abuse in South Dakota. He says there are currently no mental health or mental anguish components in the state’s abuse and neglect statutes. A Chief Justice bill is based on recommendations from a taskforce.
“A few of the highlights of the recommendations are: incorporating emotional and psychological abuse into our criminal abuse and neglect statutes,” Gilbertson says. “Recognizing the predominately domestic or family nature of elder abuse, creating a civil right of action for elder abuse similar to our existing domestic protection laws, employing a new prosecutor in the office of Attorney General to specialize in prosecuting financial exploitation of elders in South Dakota, creating a civil right of action against financial exploiters, and requiring background checks for proposed guardians and conservators, and generally prohibiting felons from serving in those positions.”
Gilbertson says the changes won’t completely solve the problem, but will make it more difficult to prey on vulnerable seniors.