South Dakota Senate clears 2 criminal justice reform bills

The South Dakota State Senate
The South Dakota State Senate
Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 10:20 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday approved a pair of proposals aimed at criminal justice reform by bolstering training for law enforcement officers and allowing young convicts sentenced to life in prison a chance for parole after they reach the age of 50.

Gov. Kristi Noem pushed the bill to require police officers to receive training on handling people resisting arrest. It would require them to retake the training every two years. It came after the governor last year committed to address law enforcement reform after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Noem’s bill passed unanimously in the Senate, while the other bill addressing probation scraped through on the thinnest of margins — a single vote.

Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch, a former judge, pushed that bill as a way to give young offenders a chance at rehabilitation. It would allow people who received life sentences for offenses they committed when they were under 25 years old to apply for parole after they turn 50. A parole board would still get to decide whether to grant it.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, as well as 17 GOP senators, opposed the proposal.

Both bills will next be considered by the House.

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