SD Juvenile Justice System Reform Bill Signed into Law


handcuffs_crime_arrestPIERRE, S.D. – Building on the success of earlier reforms to the adult corrections system, Gov. Dennis Daugaard today signed into law legislation to reform South Dakota’s juvenile justice system.

“I am grateful that the state Senate and House voted in support of this ground-breaking legislation,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Senate Bill 73 represents an important step forward for juvenile justice in South Dakota. The passage of this bill will lead to less crime, lower costs for taxpayers, and better outcomes for South Dakota’s youth and families.”

Along with Chief Justice David Gilbertson and legislative leaders, Gov. Daugaard brought forward the policy package which will result in:

  • More young people being diverted from the system without a criminal record, with the help of county incentive funds.
  • Expanded access to proven, community-based interventions, such as programs that address substance abuse, family challenges and behavioral issues.
  • Reduced juvenile justice costs by reserving residential facilities for serious offenders.

Under these reforms it is expected that 29 percent fewer juveniles will be on probation in the next 5 years and more than 50 percent fewer youth will placed in state-funded facilities by 2020.

State officials recognized the opportunity to improve the juvenile system after reviewing national statistics. In recent years, South Dakota has had the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the country, with seven of 10 commitments stemming from misdemeanor offenses, children in need of supervision (CHINS) violations and probation violations. These commitments cost South Dakota as much as $144,000 per youth per year. Currently, more than 40 percent of juveniles released from the Department of Corrections return to state custody within three years.

Encouraged by the success of the 2013 Public Safety Improvement Act (SB 70) that transformed South Dakota’s adult criminal justice system, Gov. Daugaard, Chief Justice Gilbertson and legislative leadership established the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group in June of 2014 to study the issue. After six months of meetings with more than 200 stakeholders and a thorough review of juvenile justice data, the bipartisan work group developed a comprehensive package of reforms.

Unanimously endorsed by the work group, these recommendations are reflected in the legislation signed by Gov. Daugaard today.

The following individuals served on the work group:

  • Jim D. Seward, general counsel for Gov. Daugaard, chair
  • Nancy Allard, director of Trial Court Services, Unified Judicial System
  • Rep. Julie Bartling (D-District 21)
  • Kristi Bunkers, director of the Juvenile Community Corrections, Department of Corrections
  • Majority Leader Brian Gosch (R-District 32)
  • Doug Herrmann, director of Juvenile Services, Department of Corrections
  • Judge Steven Jensen, presiding judge, First Judicial Circuit
  • Sheriff Mike Leidholt, Hughes County
  • Judge Larry Long, presiding judge, Second Judicial Circuit
  • Judge Scott Myren, presiding judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit
  • Terry Nebelsick, Huron superintendent
  • Angel Runnels, Minnehaha County public defender
  • Sen. Alan Solano (R-District 32)
  • Sen. Billie Sutton (D-District 21)
  • Mark Vargo, Pennington County state’s attorney
  • Bob Wilcox, executive director, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners
  • Tiffany Wolfgang, director of Division of Behavioral Health, Department of Social Services

The work group’s full report is available on the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative website:

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