Public Safety in South Dakota

This page was updated on June 27, 2017, to reflect new data.

South Dakota passed comprehensive juvenile justice reform legislation in 2015 based on policy recommendations from the bipartisan, interbranch Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group. The work group released its recommendations last November with technical assistance from Pew. S.B. 73 passed with strong majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) signed it into law March 12. The reforms prioritize residential facilities for youth who pose a public safety risk and reinvest the savings into evidence-based community intervention programs. The bill is expected to reduce the number of juveniles in residential placements by more than 50 percent and cut costs by more than $32 million within five years.

We can continue to place juveniles in expensive state-funded facilities that, for many, are less effective at reducing delinquency, or we can invest in proven interventions and treatment programs that keep our youth close to home and connected to their communities.—Governor Dennis Daugaard


The legislation follows the successful reform of South Dakota’s criminal justice system in 2013. Facing continued growth of its prison system, the state enacted the Public Safety Improvement Act, which included adult sentencing and corrections policies recommended by the bipartisan, interbranch Criminal Justice Initiative Work Group. The act targeted prison space toward violent and career criminals, improved the parole and probation system and victim services, and reduced recidivism by investing in treatment for substance abusers and other interventions. As of 2015, the law had stabilized the state’s prison population, cutting the number of parole violators sent to prison by 8 percent. Additionally, the number of offenders completing parole increased by 23 percent between fiscal years 2012 and 2014. The law is expected to save taxpayers $224 million over 10 years while improving public safety.

Other highlights include:

1) Population in state custody reduced.

  • The total number of youths in South Dakota Department of Corrections custody and aftercare supervision declined 38 percent in the first year and is projected to drop by half by 2020.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, new commitments decreased 50 percent, and recommitments fell 62 percent.
  • In 2016, 69 percent of youths (970 cases) successfully completed diversion programs.

2) Better youth outcomes.

  • Evidence-based Functional Family Therapy has been made available in communities statewide.
  • In 2016, 94 percent of youths successfully completed probation.
  • Youths entering probation in 2016 completed their terms in just under four months, on average.
  • Probation violations dropped 62 percent between 2014 and 2016.

3) Taxpayer dollars saved.

  • One state-run residential facility closed.
  • The reforms are expected to save up to $32 million over five years.
  • $6.1 million has been reinvested in evidence-based treatment in local communities.
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