South Dakota's state House members have approved a bill reforming the state's criminal justice system reform bill, sending it to Governor Dennis Daugaard's desk for signing.
The bill passed the House 63-7.
Senate Bill 70 is an effort to reduce the amount of prisoners in South Dakota's prison system and to reduce costs to the criminal justice system. Most notably, it looks to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders rather than incarcerating them.
The bill came after a study warned of the rising population and costs of South Dakota's prison system. House Majority Leader David Lust provided background on the bill to House members Thursday. He said SB70 was put together by over 400 stakeholders, including public defenders and prosecutors.
Officials warned that at the going incarceration rate South Dakota was poised to construct another state penitentiary. Republican Representative Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, said the last thing South Dakota should be worried about is building two new state prisons.
"Our goal in public safety should not be to simply put more people in jail," Hansen said.
The measure experienced some opposition in the House. The bill removes preliminary hearings for people charged with Class I Misdemeanors, and an amendment was proposed to reinstate those hearings.
Opponents claimed excluding preliminary hearings was unjust and would lead to more costs in hearings and trials down the road.
However, proponents like Representative David Lust, a prime sponsor of the bill, said preliminary hearings are excluded in the bill to save funding for other costs of the reform for counties. For instance, instead of a drug or alcohol offender having a preliminary hearing the offender would go to drug or alcohol courts.
For the most part, the bill was supported quite well on both sides of the aisle. House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff said SB70 was two decades overdue. While speaking to House members, Hunhoff praised the Daugaard administration and said he admired the governor's office for taking on criminal justice reform.
Immediately after the vote, Daugaard tweeted, "I want to thank the 94 Republican and Democratic legislators who voted for SB70. #SmartOnCrime."
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