A bill to repeal presumptive probation in South Dakota failed in the state Senate last week, despite the proposal’s support from new Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. According to KNBN NewsCenter1, senators voted 18-12 against Senate Bill 19, which the Legislative Research Council predicted would cost the state $54 million in the next decade.
Governor Kristi Noem also asked legislators to hold off on voting in favor of the bill, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee February 21st, 5 votes in favor to 2 votes against.
The presumptive probation policy that is currently in place requires South Dakota judges to sentence specific non-violent felony offenders, often those facing drug possession and use charges, to probation rather than prison, unless the judge feels that there is a significant risk to the public. This policy has been in place since 2013, when a Republican-led overhaul of South Dakota’s justice system aimed to reduce expensive population growth in the state prison system.
Ravnsborg says the previous policy hasn’t worked, and meth addiction continues to be a problem in South Dakota, with rising populations for county jails instead of state prisons. Opponents warned that repealing presumptive probation would not allow legislators to avoid building new prisons. The 2013 overhaul has saved South Dakota approximately $28 million, and a repeal would likely result in more people being sent to prison, and overall, more prison space being made necessary.
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