Juvenile courts are convicting fewer teenagers of felonies, but the number of South Dakota teens violating probation is up. These are two key takeaways from the latest report from the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act. This is related to Senate Bill 73 to reform the juvenile justice system in the state. On Tuesday, an oversight council looked at the report.
The goal is to ultimately decrease the number of minors behind bars, reduce crime, lower costs for taxpayers and have better outcomes for South Dakota’s youth and families. The Oversight Council is trying to do that by looking at data from the juvenile justice system and ultimately fixing whatever isn’t working.
According to the report, minors committing felony offenses are down just more than eight percent from last year. That’s comparing 654 in 2018 to 2017’s total of 713. That’s still higher than 2016’s total of 594.
Council members are happy to see some progress there, but they’re concerned about probation numbers. After remaining stable from 2016 to 2017, the number of minors who violated their probation went up 51 percent from last year to this year.
Council chair Greg Sattizahn says data shows teen offenders are likely to re-offend and violate within the first year of probation.
“Whatever it was that led them there hasn’t been resolved. Whether it’s drug addiction, substance abuse, family turmoil, whatever it is; I think those things take some time,” Sattizahn said.
Brady Mallory: Is the probation system failing them?
Sattizahn: I don’t think it’s failing them, but it’s certainly challenging in our probation system right now. We have a number of additional services in the community we never had on probation prior to the juvenile justice reform. We need to make sure we’re getting the right kids and connecting them to these services.
Sattizahn is talking about treatment options and resources as alternatives to incarceration. The Council will present a final report to the governor, legislative leaders, and the Chief Justice before January.
You can see the full report here.