South Dakota's criminal justice system is getting a major overhaul. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill on Wednesday which will punish and rehabilitate non-violent offenders locally rather than sending them to the state pen.
A big crowd watched Daugaard make judicial reform official in South Dakota. The idea received a lot of support state-wide. But some involved had their doubts that it would.
"I was visiting with the Secretary of Corrections yesterday [Tuesday] and he said, 'Governor, I have to admit last September and October I was discouraged and doubtful,’" Daugaard said.
He said that's because the plan included a lot of big changes.
Daugaard thanked legislators and others involved in the process. He said this plan is a good way of holding people accountable and rehabilitating them while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
South Dakota's Chief Justice David Gilbertson is optimistic the plan will work. Some of its components are already in place in certain places throughout the state. Gilbertson says they’ve been successful.
"It wasn't an idea, we got out of a book somewhere. We can show them that these programs actually do work,” Gilbertson said. “We'll expand and build on those on a state-wide basis but nothing succeeds like success."
He says judges and officers will receive sophisticated training on the new methods. He and Daugaard agree the reform will be effective overall.
"Yes, there will be individuals who seem to be the example of why we shouldn't do it. But there'll be many more individuals who will be the example of why we should do it," Daugaard said.
Daugaard thanks lawmakers and everyone involved for taking the risk of trying change. He stressed, these changes will still hold people accountable when they break the law. But he adds, it should improve their chances of rehab as well.