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Chief Justice Addresses Drug Issue In State Of Judiciary Speech

Lee Strubinger

The head of South Dakota’s Supreme Court says the probation system in the state is stretched thin.

With rising rates of drug related offenses, Chief Justice took time to reiterate the savings of the state’s probation program as opposed to incarceration.

South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson calls the rising rates of addiction in South Dakota a new wave of evil.

He says the drug problem in South Dakota has exploded.

Gilbertson says drug crimes accounted for 41 percent of prison admissions in the last fiscal year.

“Judge Susan Sabers estimates that in Minnehaha County her criminal docket—95 percent of the cases she sees are for meth related offenses. It’s no different in the rural areas. Sheriff Kurt Hall of Fall County estimates that 90 percent of those in his jail are there for drug use and 100 percent of the domestic abuse calls involve drugs.”

Gilbertson says the state’s focus on alternative sentencing methods, which include probation instead of jail time, saves the state money.

Gilbertson also touched on the state’s mental health needs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, South Dakota is a mental healthcare shortage area.

“I believe that many of these unfortunate South Dakota citizens are veterans who have run afoul of the law because of PTSD—or other service related problems—or attempts to self-medicate or mask their problems through substance abuse.

Gilbertson says blending that with the criminal justice system is problematic. He says having people with mental illness waiting in county jail for competency evaluations costs the state money.

To hear Chief Justice Gilbertson’s State of the Judiciary speech click play below.