PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A government group that tracks data on juvenile offenders in South Dakota says the numbers continue to show improvements resulting from reforms begun eight years ago.
The council was scheduled to expire this year but the Legislature extended it through June 30, 2031. Lawmakers also expanded its scope and membership. The legislation was one of the recommendations made by a special study committee in 2022.
State courts administrator Greg Sattizahn had chaired the group since its 2015 creation. He will be stepping off. The new chair selected Wednesday is state Circuit Judge David Knoff of Yankton. The new vice chair is Republican Rep. Mike Stevens, a long-time lawyer.
The group has met at least twice annually, as required by state law. Judge Knoff asked the members to get together again later this year to talk about more opportunities for improvements.
Then-Governor Dennis Daugaard and then-Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson urged the Legislature in 2015 to approve a package of juvenile reforms. The 32-page bill went through without any amendments, winning passage from the Senate 35-0 and from the House 60-7.
Sattizahn said Wednesday that South Dakota proportionately was locking up more juveniles than any other state in 2014.
There were 3,025 juvenile delinquency petitions filed that year. The numbers have been smaller for every year since, reaching a low of 1,935 during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the two years since, they climbed back again to 2,285 and 2,822 — the highest since the reforms began.