As South Dakota deals with a ballooning prison population, a group is turning to the movies to shed light on the nation's incarceration issues, saying it should be a focus for lawmakers during the next legislative session.
South Dakota Families First and the ACLU sponsored a screening of the documentary film, “The House I Live In.” The film highlights the nation’s war on drugs, saying it isn’t working by putting more and more non-violent offenders behind bars.
“The war on drugs has failed us and it's only put more people in prison that don't need to be there. And that we need to treat people with addiction in other ways,” ACLU Advocacy Director Tiffany Campbell said.
“Our current policies just are not healthy for public safety or for the budget,” South Dakota Families First Director Emmett Reistroffer said, prior to the screening.
The group says the budget is what will suffer, pointing to the state's mass incarceration numbers, with prisons are filled with more and more non-violent offenders. It's a problem highlighted nationally in the film.
“Sending them to prison is not a great option for us anymore. And we should be treating them with different options, such as probation, giving them the treatment they deserve and need,” Campbell said.
A state criminal justice initiative report released last month says at current incarceration rates, the prison population will swell over the next ten years, requiring two new prisons in the state with a $220 million total price tag.
“Our values, I believe, are aligned with a better approach. So what we're pushing for is something aligned to South Dakota values,” Reistroffer said.
The group has more showings planned across the state, including Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City and again in Sioux Falls.