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SD State Pen. Prepares For Judicial Reform

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In an effort to lower incarceration rates in South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed his self-proposed judicial system reform into law earlier this year. The law focuses on treating non-violent offenders rather than imprisoning them.


The reform is already taking place. But, a lower prison population could bring a different set of problems to the state penitentiary.

An important goal for the warden and staff of the prison is to prepare inmates to return to society.


“We're in a growing community and there are plenty of jobs.  So, we have to prepare people to get a job and how to be successful to not come back here,” said Warden Daren Young.


But, with a judicial system reform in the works, fewer non-violent criminals will be coming to the prison, their punishments will be geared toward rehabilitation. Something many, including the governor, say is a good thing. However, less non-violent offenders, means a stronger concentration of inmates who have been convicted of violent crimes.       


“The risk is going to be higher. We'll have higher risk individuals that will be here and we have to be prepared for that and we are prepared for that,” said Warden Young.


But, preparing for every inmate to walk through the doors can be challenging. 


“These are the tools that we can hone in on with. Make sure we're addressing they’re needs as oppose to just assuming everybody needs to do some certain class and that everybody is the same because they're not the same when they come here,” added Warden Young.


Needing a new prison by the end of the decade was a fear state government officials pointed out during the last legislative session. With reforms in place to avoid that need, The South Dakota State Penitentiary prepares for a different group of inmates.   


“We want to be efficient with tax payer dollars. We are running at a pretty good number of inmates right now and we hope that are count is going to plateau off,” said Young.


The South Dakota State Penitentiary is offering a new GED program that allows prisoners to get an education while serving their sentence.  

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