State officials estimate that if South Dakota continues on its current trend of incarceration, the state will have to build two new prisons in the next decade costing some $212 million. But one bill that is waiting for Governor Dennis Daugaard's signature hopes to change that.
Senate Bill 70, or the Public Safety Improvement Act, is aimed at keeping non-violent criminals out of jail through alternative sentencing, offering things like drug court or a drug testing program.
One rehab counselor we spoke with is very excited to see the changes.
"It’s not that we want to minimize the consequences necessary for criminal offenses, but we do need to address the almost omni-preset relationship of addiction to our incarcerated population," Brad Patterson with the Carroll Institute said.
70 to 90 percent of South Dakota's inmates have some sort of issue with addiction, according Patterson.
“These relationships to addictions may be that they were committing their crimes to acquire more drugs or perhaps they were selling drugs to acquire their drug of choice. And these all can lead to very intense prison sentences,” Patterson said.
Patterson says he is excited to see the possibility of alternative sentencing to help get addicts sober and remove them from the ever revolving door of drugs and jail. He says the drug court program has already proved to be highly accountable for offenders.
"The success stories are very inspirational. People who had nothing and found themselves in jail or prison, being given the chance for support and accountability through the drug courts," Patterson said.
He says people have given the current 24/7 program credit for saving their lives. He hopes future programs will have the same stories.
"The bottom line is this is an incredible opportunity and we are very, very happy that our politicians seem to be aligning, even setting the example, of positively joining together towards this common cause. It is so necessary and I think it is going to have a great impact," Patterson said.
The Carroll Institute has recently begun some new programs that Patterson says will integrate very well into the states new platform.
Now he says its time for the rehab facilities to work together to make sure everything works.