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South Dakota Boosts Criminal Justice System Investments

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed legislation Monday that puts more than $390 million into the state’s prison system, with most of that money going toward investments in new prison facilities.

One of the bills signed by Noem allocates $60 million to build a women’s prison in Rapid City. Another sets aside $54 million for property and design costs for a Sioux Falls men’s prison and puts $270 million into a fund for future men’s prisons in the state. Lawmakers widely supported the bills as they made their way through the session.

Hesitations over taxing the state hundreds of millions of dollars for a prison in Sioux Falls were overshadowed by concerns about a current facility, which lacks access for employees and programming opportunities. Lawmakers agreed the current prison was generally outdated.

“We need a correctional facility — not a lock them away and leave them there prison, which is what we have now,” Democratic Rep. Linda Duba said.

Noem signed 10 other bills that address criminal justice, from updating rape definitions to removing public access to inmate disciplinary records. She also approved child witness protections and limiting parole for violent offenders.

Some lawmakers opposed that “truth in sentencing” push, arguing that locking up prisoners without possibility for parole would excessively cost the state. Others argued parole reduces recidivism and this would interfere with that public safety goal.

But the majority of lawmakers emphasized it provides clarity for crime victims and deters people from committing violent crimes.


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