PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Senate was nearly unanimous Wednesday in its support for legislation that would require violent felons to serve at least 85% of their prison sentences.
The 32-3 vote sends SB-146 to the state House of Representatives for action next. Republican Rep. Aaron Aylward is lead sponsor there.
The prime sponsor, Republican Sen. Brent Hoffman, said the change comes at the same time that South Dakota is moving forward with plans to build a new prisons for men and women.
“It focuses specifically on violent crimes because that is the greatest area of concern for our communities, for our citizens, for your constituents,” Hoffman said.
Republican Sen. David Wheeler spoke against the bill. “If we squeeze here and reduce the parole eligibility, what that will do is just cause judges to change how they sentence,” he said.
Wheeler wants the Legislature to instead invest in more programming for inmates. “This is the easier way out,” he said.
But Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck said the change will give victims assurance that their attackers will serve most or all of their sentences. “If there’s something more that needs to be done to tweak it, after we plug the hole in this dike, the next Legislature or the one after can look at the problem and try to fix it,” he said.
Senate Democrat leader Reynold Nesiba said he reluctantly supported passage because crime clearly was on people’s minds in his district when he campaigned last fall and he’s heard too many gunshots on the block where he lives in Sioux Falls.