South Dakota leaders this week announced creation of a work group to study ways to reform the state criminal justice system to control its rising costs, reports the Associated Press. The state’s prison population has grown fivefold since 1980, to more than 3,600 inmates, and costs more than $100 million a year. The work group will study sentencing and Department of Corrections policies to see if there are reforms or alternatives, such as community treatment programs, that could ease the amount of money spent each year on overall public safety, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.
“This is not about being hard or soft on crime. This is about being smart on crime,” Daugaard said. South Dakota’s prison rate is about double the rates of North Dakota and Minnesota. The work group, which includes representatives from the state judiciary, legislature and governor’s office, will work with the Pew Center on the States to analyze data over the next several months. It will study data through October. Any possible drafting of legislation will take place in late October or November and be introduced during the next legislative session.