South Dakota’s prison population spikes, judges seek alternatives to detention

South Dakota’s prison population hit record highs in recent months, and state officials described stepped-up efforts to reduce the number of people sentenced to prison and cut the number of parolees who end up back behind bars.

South Dakota’s inmate population had remained stable for a number of years, but the inmate count started to increase in the last half of 2011. The adult inmate count peaked this March, exceeding budget projections early in the year. As a result, state officials are seeking alternatives.

The prison system is seeing a rise in the number of new inmates sentenced to prison, a big jump in parole violations and a drop in inmates being paroled. The number of paroles is dropping because more inmates are violating prison rules or failing to complete goals, which means they are not eligible for scheduled release. The governor has set up a group looking at changes in the criminal justice and corrections systems to protect public safety in a more effective and less costly way. The group plans to present proposals to the 2013 Legislature; it seeks changes in sentencing, alternative sentencing, probation and parole. Many judges want options that allow them to keep offenders in their home communities without sending them to prison, according to news reports.

Read more about the challenges South Dakota faces in a recent Rapid City Journal article.

BI Incorporated works with several state correctional systems, such as California, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and others to deliver cost-effective alternatives to detention. Similar to what South Dakota officials seek, these solutions are flexible and focus on lowering the cost of incarceration with community options. Many of these options also focus on changing criminal behavior, the root of recidivism that drives prison crowding. Others, such as GPS tracking, continuous alcohol monitoring, or electronic monitoring, support parole officers by driving compliance to schedules, location monitoring and sobriety.

For more on solutions for federal, state and local correctional agencies, click here.