After Tuesday's budget proposal, Governor Dennis Daugaard said the incarceration rate in South Dakota is much higher than neighboring states with similar crime rates.
It's a fact uncovered by the Pew Research study for Daugaard's Criminal Justice Initiative.
That study also shows if the state continues at the current incarceration rate, we could be spending more than $224 million over the next 10 years to pay for our prison system.
According to the study, the number of incarcerated men went from 1,254 in 2000 to 2,376 in 2012, an 89 percent increase. During that same period, the number of women in prison went from 170 to 406, an astonishing 138 percent increase.
More people in prison mean more money for South Dakota tax payers.
"South Dakota is currently at its peak, at it's highest number of incarcerated individuals and that spells a lot of costs, costs at all sorts of different levels," said American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota's Executive Director Robert Doody.
Guards, buildings, fences and food—these are just some of the daily costs that go into housing prisoners. They're costs that add up very quick.
The Pew study breaks down the average cost per day at different prisons in South Dakota, with the most expensive daily rate at the women's prison—about $76 per day for each prisoner.
That means if an adult female is sent to the women's prison for 6 months or 180 days, it would cost the state about $13,800. Now compare that to the cost of sentencing the same woman to 6 months probation: just $500.
It's figures like these that led to Governor Daugaard's Criminal Justice Initiative.
"If we can keep the public safe, if we can hold people accountable, in ways that are more efficient, then that's the kind of policies we want to work toward," said Governor Daugaard.
One suggestion from the study is to reduce the number of drug and alcohol offenders in prison.
"We have a large percentage of the population of the prison in for nonviolent offenses," said SD Department of Correction Secretary Denny Kaemingk.
In fact, according to the Department of Correction, approximately 60 percent of South Dakota's current prison population are serving for nonviolent offenses. The Pew study shows that over 80 percent of offenders admitted to prison in 2012 were for nonviolent crimes. It's a point the department of correction hopes to change.
"Take the individuals we're scared of and keep them in prison for as long as we can. Those individuals that we're just disappointed or angry with, we need to find another alternative," said Kaemingk.
Some of those alternatives include drug court systems or presumptive probation for first time possession charges.
Many organizations hope to see an official bill introduced to the state legislature this year that would facilitate some of the Pew study's suggested changes.
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