By Victoria Wicks
Governor Dennis Daugaard sat at his desk in the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday and signed the Public Safety Improvement Act into law.
The package of legislation culminates the Criminal Justice Initiative to reduce South Dakota’s prison populations. Included are expanded drug, DUI, and veterans’ courts; intensive supervision for felons on probation or parole; treatment for addiction; and an emphasis on treatment within the community rather than incarceration in prison.
After signing the bill, Daugaard summed up the process: “There were so many groups of stakeholders who came together and recognized that while they might not like every aspect of the bill, they liked most of it, and we should not let perfect be the enemy of the good. And what was good, they should support, and they did.”
Daugaard appointed a work group last summer who studied why so many of the state’s convicted felons end up in prison, compared with bordering states where the prison population is much less. The work group made recommendations for diverting nonviolent felons into community programs, as well as other recommendations for legislation.
The Public Safety Improvement Act becomes law July 1.