Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes House

Mar 11, 2015

The state House of Representatives passed a bill revising the juvenile justice system in South Dakota. It focuses on alternatives to incarceration and seeks to keep kids in their communities.

Senate Bill 73 comes as a result of a work group that met last year. The group found that South Dakota has one of the highest rates juvenile incarcerations, and the bill aims to reduce those numbers. Representative Brian Gosch is a prime sponsor of the measure. He says it creates a presumption of probation.
 
“The focus on the youth who are most dangerous in the community will still be there, and they will still be incarcerated,” Gosch says. “Senate Bill 73 also establishes community response teams as a resource to help judges identify community based alternatives that were referenced earlier in my floor speech. Senate Bill 73 will also institute a performance based contracting for providers to meet treatment goals within established time frames when possible. It will also require state run juvenile corrections facilities to design and operate programs to achieve released aftercare within three months, and require findings from the court prior to placing a child in county detention for more than 14 days in a 30 day period.”
 
The bill also establishes an oversight council.

Opponents say the measure creates unintended consequences. Representative Dan Kaiser says it leads to extra hearings, increasing court hours and costs to counties. He says a section limiting the length of probation allowed for juveniles is unrealistic and frustrating.
 
“It’s easy for all of us to say we want reform, but did all of us tear into this and see exactly what we’re doing,” Kaiser says. “I guess there are some concerns here, and maybe this is something we can work on and get everybody into the details and come back next year. I guess at the most I’d like everybody just to pause and think about the big changes we are making and if it’s a step in the right direction.”
 
The majority of Representatives support Senate Bill 73 passing it with a vote of 60 to seven.