SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Data from the state shows that drug convictions are the biggest reason the state’s female prison population is growing.
South Dakota’s female inmate population grew by 35% from 2013 to fiscal year 2018, according to the South Dakota Department of Correction’s (DOC)\ Fiscal Year 2018 report.
At the end of fiscal year 2018, 65% of the female inmate prison population had been convicted of drug crimes, the DOC report said. That’s 366.6 of the 564 women who were in prison in fiscal year 2018.
The Sentencing Project, a non-profit that has focused on the civil justice system for 30 years, completed a study of incarceration from 2008-2017. In 2017, South Dakota had one of the highest incarceration rates for women in the nation. It was twice the national average. Oklahoma and Kentucky had higher rates.
The state DOC said South Dakota had the fourth highest incarceration rate for women in fiscal year 2018.
The Sentencing Project study found that in 2017, 25% of female inmates in the U.S. were convicted of drug crimes. That’s a 13% increase from 1986.
South Dakota is the only state in the U.S. that makes it a felony to ingest a controlled substance and conviction numbers are growing.
A state task force examined that state law and related drug laws and concluded in November that the felony ingestion law should continue.
The panel voted 8-3 against a proposal from Sen. Craig Kennedy, a Yankton Democrat, to reduce ingestion to a misdemeanor from a felony, a Nov. 8 KELOLAND News story said. He also wanted to double the probation period for misdemeanor ingestion to two years.
Data from the South Dakota Department of Corrections said that in October of 2019, 361 male and female inmates were convicted of an ingestion crime. If an inmate is convicted on more than one offense, the DOC records the most serious inmate offense for each month’s statistics.
Ingestion convictions were almost non-existent in 2009. A report from the Unified Judicial System prepared by the state court administrator’s office said there were only two ingestion convictions in 2009. Convictions climbed over the next 10 years. There will be an estimated 939 in 2019. Convictions reached a 10-year high from 2018 with 991.
South Dakota more clearly defined the ingestion law in 2001 and it was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2004.
According to the South Dakota Department of Social Services website, the agency provides chemical dependency counselors to prison inmates.
While inmates in the U.S. may need treatment, they don’t always get it, a national 2011 study called “Lifetime Benefits and Costs of Diverting Substance-Abusing Offenders From State Prison” found.
The study said while 50% of inmates in the U.S. are eligible for treatment only 10% get medically-based treatment.
The South Dakota Department of Social Services provides chemical dependency and mental health services to prison inmates.
Michael Winder, the public information officer for the DOC, said an intensive methamphetamine treatment program is available at the women’s prison.
Other services that DSS also provides include Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for Substance Abuse (CBISA), an evidence-based substance use disorder treatment program for offenders with moderate to high substance use needs, he said. Also, there are 12-step programs and other skills groups as well as individual counseling and treatment services available.
Proponents of revamping the prison system and drug laws in the U.S. to focus more on drug treatment, prevention and options such as drug court say those options would cost less than the daily costs of housing an inmate.
On average, it costs $60.07 a day to house a female inmate in 2019, the DOC said. On average, it cost $61.09 to house a female inmate in fiscal year 2018, the DOC said. Those are average costs for operations, treatment and related expenses. The costs can vary depending on the inmate, services, facility and other factors.
Female inmates in the CBISA may be housed in the main prison, Unit E or in the Pierre Community Work Center, also known as Unit H. Those on the methamphetamine program are housed in the Pierre site (Unit H). The specific daily cost for those facilities for 2019 are: $84.64 for main prison, $44.66 for Unit E, and $42.91 for the Pierre site. The costs include operations, chemical dependency treatment and others.
The average daily count for the main women’s prison is 213. The average in Unit E is 94 and the average count at the Pierre Community Work Center is 175.