Juvenile justice reforms 'on the right track' in South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) – The Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act Oversight Council released its annual report Monday, which outlines the progress made under the juvenile justice reforms brought by the governor and Chief Justice David Gilbertson and passed by the State Legislature in 2015.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard says data from the newly released juvenile reform report shows implementation of the reforms is on the right track.

“The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate young people, and in most cases that is best done in the community,” said Daugaard. “This report offers data and facts to analyze the success of these reforms. We are seeing fewer juveniles committed, a reduction in juvenile recidivism and success among those who are sent to functional family therapy.”

Before the 2015 reforms went into effect, South Dakota had the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the country and was 188 percent above the national average. More than three-quarters of the commitments to the juvenile justice system were for nonviolent or probation violations.

Since Fiscal Year 2014, new commitments to the Department of Corrections have declined 56 percent and the number of re-commitments has declined by two-thirds.

Other points in the report include:

- In FY 17, there was a nearly 72 percent increase in referrals of juveniles to community-based services compared to FY 16.

- Since the reforms took effect, 2,887 juvenile offenders have participated in community-based diversion programs, with 72 percent successfully completing the program.

- Ninety-six percent of youth completed probation without a revocation in FY 17.

- The number of youth on probation decreased by 20 percent in the last year.

- In the last year, 346 families have completed functional family therapy

– 92 percent of which have demonstrated a positive change, according to therapists.

Read the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act report here.

The release of the report comes a few weeks after counties received annual diversion program checks in the mail. Under a fiscal incentive program created by the law, the State of South Dakota awarded a total of $250,000 to counties for successfully diverting juvenile offenders from the criminal justice system.

This is the second year diversion funds have been awarded.