PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Many people’s behaviors changed as the coronavirus pandemic swept South Dakota during the past 15 months. On the positive side, youths got in a lot less criminal trouble, according to data presented Tuesday.
A joint report from the South Dakota Department of Corrections and from the state courts system showed numbers of youths on probation dropped by the hundreds. So did probation violations.
“I think it’s a good sign,” Greg Sattizahn, the state courts administrator, said during a meeting of the state panel that oversees juvenile justice reforms. He said there were clear declines in citations issued for alcohol possession, truancy and petty theft.
Kristi Bunkers, director of juvenile services for the state Department of Corrections, said the mix of the three most-frequent offenses shifted as the pandemic took hold. Sexual offenses dropped and probation violations replaced them.
One situation where corrections costs climbed were placement services, because outside facilities often delayed taking or refused accepting youths, according to Bunkers.
Superintendent Kelly Glodt said the Pierre School District had fewer severe discipline issues than in previous years. “We don’t know what to attribute that to,” Glodt said.
The state Department of Social Services saw a mix of results regarding youths and their families during the pandemic, according to Bev Mentzer.
Referrals from the courts were down during the first 10 months of the current budget year, but referrals from Corrections were relatively steady, and referrals from other agencies, schools, diversion programs and associated groups were already higher than last year.
Training services for aggressive youth and their families were used less frequently, Mentzer said.