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Ingestion Law Impacts Native Americans More Than Other Demographics In SD

South Dakota’s ingestion law affects Native Americans more than any other demographic in the state.

That’s according to data from the Unified Judicial System in cases where ingestion is the highest charged crime.

South Dakota is the only state in the country where ingestion of a controlled substance is charged as a felony level offense. In the eight other states in the US where ingestion is a charge it’s either a misdemeanor or felony probation.

In about 10 percent of cases, prosecutors use ingestion as a bargaining chip. Defendants ultimately plead guilty to ingestion and other charges are dismissed.

According to statistics from the state as of September 30, 2019, approximately 10 percent native men sit in prison for ingestion, as opposed to six percent for non-native men.

As for women, approximately 23 percent of female Native American inmates are in prison for ingestion. Non-native females make up just over 16 percent.

Credit Unified Judicial System

Candi Brings Plenty is the Indigenous Justice organizer for the ACLU in the Dakotas. She says the ingestion data doesn’t represent the whole scope of the issue.

Brings Plenty says there’s evident racial disparity.

“Poverty and the high prevalence of alcohol abuse definitely play a role,” Brings Plenty says. “But, it’s also the police patterns. Profiling the women. Racial profiling and the racism itself that continues to contribute to what that looks like. For the terms of ingestion, I know that drug and alcohol related offenses are definitely targeted toward Native Americans.”

State lawmakers meet Tuesday to discuss offenses regarding controlled substances. It's the third meeting and they will discuss what steps to take next.

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