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Senate Judiciary approves UJS studies

South Dakota Department of Corrections Parole Division, Sioux Falls, S.D.
South Dakota Department of Corrections Parole Division, Sioux Falls, S.D.

A pair of bills authorizing the Unified Judicial System to create study groups are on their way to becoming law. One group will focus on providing services for young adult offenders. The other will look at finding and financing court appointed lawyers for indigent defendants. The House has already signed off on both bills, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved them on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Greg Sattizahn is state court administrator with UJS.

He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that young adult offenders, ages 18-24, are more likely than older offenders to commit new crimes after coming out of incarceration. He said people in that age group don’t fully recognize consequences for their actions and haven’t developed the impulse control needed to resist risky behavior and peer pressure.

Sattizahn said the study group authorized by HB 1063 will comprise experts, but the goal is to establish the people down home as one-on-one contacts for young offenders.

“While this is something that the court system is pushing, this is something we’d really like to involve our communities in, the ideas of mentoring, of work programs, education,” he said. “Those are really just as important as what we’re doing with someone once they’re in the criminal justice system.”

He said the group, appointed by the Chief Justice, will report findings to the legislature in November.

Sattizahn also introduced HB 1064, which authorizes a study committee to find ways to recruit and pay for court-appointed attorneys, especially in more rural areas.

Sattizahn said the need exists in all 66 counties because the constitutional right to an attorney applies to anyone facing sanctions.

“Primarily it’s criminal cases, but it also is something that’s required for abuse and neglect cases, so if a party is facing termination of their parental rights, or if it’s a juvenile that’s accused of committing a crime,” he said.

Sattizahn said counties paid $20 million last year for court-appointed lawyers, and South Dakota is one of two states that don’t provide any significant state reimbursement.

He said the study committee will look at the framework of how services are delivered rather than just asking for more money from the state.

Both bills now go to the full Senate for debate.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.