Governor Dennis Daugaard proposed some big overhauls to the state's justice system in his State of the State speech aimed at reducing our quickly growing prison population and one sheriff is glad to hear it.
Governor Daugaard said that if the prison population keeps growing at its current rate, the state will have to spend around $212 million to build two new prisons. His proposals hope to avoid that cost and the Minnehaha County Sheriff likes what he hears.
"I think he's going about it the right way," Sheriff Mike Milstead said.
Milstead says that he and many other officials from the law enforcement and criminal justice community have met with Governor Daugaard's staff many times to talk about the new proposals.
"I think he's going about it the right way. He's taking his time. He's doing a lot of research. He's dedicated a lot of staff to working on this specific thing to make sure that the end result contains measures that will not only save taxpayers by reducing the prison population but also still hold offenders accountable," Milstead said.
Daugaard wants to expand the already successful drug court program, start a drug testing program that is similar to a program in Hawaii and mirrors South Dakota's 24/7 program. Both are designed to keep criminals accountable while keeping them out of an $80 per night jail or prison bed.
"I'm encouraged by it. I like seeing some of the alternatives to incarceration even at the county level," Milstead said.
Some have said this would put more criminals on the street, but Milstead says citizens' safety isn't at risk.
"We're not talking about putting dangerous people out on the street. I believe the proposals are to put people out on the street who are struggling with addiction issues or they're repeat offenders that need some additional guidance when they get out of prison to provide them with an environment where they'll succeed as opposed to fail," Milstead said.
Milstead hopes Minnehaha County is one of the pilot programs for the possible new drug testing program. He believes they are already well set up to institute it.