Jail population at Pennington County beginning to see a decrease

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — The Pennington County Jail is beginning to see a decrease in its inmate population. This is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge which uses specific strategies to keep jails from being overused.

For four years, the Pennington County Jail has been working hard to lower inmate numbers by applying for grants from the Mac Arthur Foundation.

“So far they’ve given Rapid City, Pennington County, close to $3 million of support that’s in technical assistance and cash to help with their additional initiatives so we started out with four initiatives with like 14 subcategories underneath those and we’ve began implementing those over the last year and a half,” Sheriff Thom said.

Between tribal outreach, case processing, community supervision, and pretrial alternatives, the jail is keeping numbers down.

The Care Campus, added nearly a year ago, offers an alternative to jail for low-level offenders.

“We don’t want to compromise public safety ever so the goal is to look at particularly our low level offenders, is there better alternatives than putting them in jail and is there a more efficient way for these tax payer dollars to implement the strategies that we are talking about,” Sheriff Thom said.

The opening of the Care Campus in September has kept roughly 800 people out of jail. The trend is a 5-per cent reduction in jail populations since September.

“In spite of the spike and arrests with the methamphetamine epidemic we have still been able to hold our jail numbers and start to level off and slight decrease in the lower level offenders,” Sheriff Thom said.

The second floor of the Care Campus, opening this fall, has 64 addiction treatment beds with hopes of helping more people and bringing down the jail population even more.

The Public Service Assessment is another alternative. It determines the risk of threat the person is to the community. To read about each of the strategies, here is a link that explains.

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