South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard says a criminal justice reform initiative will save the state more than $200 million by being “smart on crime” and focusing corrections dollars on probation and treatment for nonviolent offenders, reports the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Daugaard filed the Public Safety Improvement Act shortly after his State of the State address, in which the governor said the growth in the state’s prison population would require the construction of two new prisons within 10 years and cost the state upwards of $224 million if the prison population continues to grow at its current rate.
The governor says 17 other states have reduced the cost of corrections and improved public safety at the same time through the sorts of proposals contained in his bill. “This set of proposals is not about being soft on crime, it’s about being smart on crime,” Daugaard said. “Other states have shown that justice reinvestment works.” The bill calls for an expansion of drug courts, the creation of a 24/7 sobriety program for drug users, a presumption of probation sentences for low-level felons and for earned early discharge from parole and probation. The bill also would lower the penalties for possession of controlled substances.