“Truth in sentencing” bill moves forward
The “truth in sentencing” bill narrowly passed in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 22, by a vote of 7 to 6.
Sitting on that committee is Rep. Tim Reisch, who was director of South Dakota’s Department of Corrections for many years. He spoke against the bill, saying it is not the answer to curbing repeat offenses and, in fact, will make the situation worse.
One goal of Senate Bill 146 given by its supporters is to keep violent offenders in prison for longer periods of time so they aren’t out in the community committing more crimes.
Rep. Tim Reisch told the committee that the bill won’t accomplish what it purports to do.
“Many studies have proven that the best way to reduce recidivism among criminals is through the use of a combination of prison, time, programming, transitional services, and parole,” he said.
Reisch said under this bill, prisoners would lose the incentive to go through programming and adjust their behaviors, because good time release would be eliminated for some violent crimes.
And he noted that the bill doesn’t reduce the problem of prison overcrowding, because new criminals will still commit new crimes.
“We’re getting ready to spend half a billion dollars building more cells,” he said. “We’re going to need them if this thing passes.”
Reisch said rather than build more prisons, the state should hire more parole officers, tighten parole rules, and spend more money on education and tax relief.
During more than an hour of discussion at the hearing, Attorney General Marty Jackley spoke in favor of the bill. When committee members asked about the role of alcohol and other drugs in the commission of crimes, Jackley replied that addiction was a factor in 80 to 90 percent of criminal behavior and said that estimate might be low.
That statistic confirmed for Rep. Peri Pourier how she would vote. She said she knew good people from good families who committed acts of violence.
“They would have never committed the crime if they weren’t under the influence,” she said.
Pourier said the state should spend its money addressing that huge underlying factor: “I’d rather see 20 million dollars be spent to prevention.”
SB 146 has been heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, as well as at this most recent hearing. It now goes to the House floor for more debate.