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Motel Rooms For Parolees

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A new plan created under Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Criminal Justice Initiative could help former criminals get back on their feet.

Finding a place to live and getting a job are just a couple things former offenders have to worry about. Getting re-integrated into the community can be tough, but motel owners might not think placing several parolees in a single motel room is the best way to get them adjusted to a normal life.

“It’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Tim Nicolai, owner of the Arena Motel in Sioux Falls.

The Arena Motel has been generous enough to house the homeless and former offenders in the past.

“We’ve worked with the parole officers very close, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to do that with this,” said Nicolai.

Nicolai says the new program he’s heard about won’t work at his motel.

“There’s no safety net or social work getting them introduced back into the system,” said Nicolai.

The Arena Motel is at full occupancy almost every night. Nicolai says there just isn’t enough space to take in the parolees.

“The plan that I’ve also heard is that they want to put four people in a room. Which is in itself kind of a strange request,” said Nicolai.

South Dakota Director of Parole Ed Ligtenberg says nothing is set in stone.

“We haven’t discussed how many offenders would be housed in a particular room. However, it would have to be a fairly large room to house four people,” said Ligtenberg.

But room occupancy isn’t the only concern. Some motels and neighborhoods might not want former inmates moving in.

“The current vision on this program is that we would house lower risk offenders in the community that did not have the programming and surveillance needs that a higher risk offender would need,” said Ligtenberg.

“I just think they need to reach out and be on the same page as all the motel owners, and apartment house owners,” said Nicolai.

When the time comes, Ligtenberg says he’ll make sure they find the right motels that are willing to take on the responsibility.

There is still no timeline for when the details of the program will be finalized, or when the potential motels will be contacted.

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