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Officials look at criminal justice system reform law

Posted: Saturday, Apr 20th, 2013

HURON — County jails like the Regional Correction Center in Huron will be greatly impacted when criminal justice system reforms enacted by the Legislature become law in July, the local jail administrator said Thursday.

Legislators, at the urging of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, passed a package of bills aimed at stabilizing the skyrocketing prison population in South Dakota. Instead, more emphasis will be placed on keeping offenders home for treatment and rehabilitation.

But Skip McWethy said having more offenders serve local time rather than sentences in the state penitentiary will place more of a burden on local jails.

“My fear is our county jails are going to get jammed up,” he said at the annual State of the County luncheon.

County Commission Chairman Larry Mattke and others addressed fellow county officials and members of the Huron Kiwanis Club and the current Leadership Huron class.

McWethy expects his staff to soon be dealing with a full jail. The Regional Correction Center houses people serving time from six counties.

More than 100 probationers, for example, come to the jail twice a day to take breathalyzer tests. Others report daily to comply with other sentencing conditions.

The county is reimbursed for the expense of local programs, but it doesn’t cover all of the costs.

In the aftermath of recent escapes from the adult jail and the juvenile detention center, 28 major changes in policies and procedures were made, Sheriff Doug Solem said.

The county added staff for more supervision and there is better monitoring within the jail.

After an inmate on cleaning duty one night threatened a jailer with a fake weapon and escaped — but was captured hours later in Sioux Falls — the jail staff no longer uses inmates to clean during night hours.

A new strip search and pat-down policy is in place, and there is also a new clothing policy in which everything an inmate wears is provided.

“Nothing is brought in from the outside any more,” Solem said.

He also said there has been a significant increase this year in the number of people applying for concealed weapons permits.

With the help of a highway safety grant, the sheriff’s department has been able to offer more overtime hours for deputies to participate in high visibility enforcement during holidays as well as saturation patrols and checkpoints, Solem said.

County law enforcement officers had the support of city police in investigating seven house burglaries earlier this year. Suspects were arrested in Huron and a total of $40,000 to $50,000 in property was recovered, including 13 of 14 stolen guns. Drugs and cash were also seized.

Meanwhile, wetland mitigation issues have delayed reconstruction of 18 miles of the Broadland Road for two years, dramatically increasing the project cost from $3 million to between $4.5 and $5 million, Mattke said.

Once the county’s plan has been approved, work can begin to secure the rights of way. Originally estimated to cost $100,000, right of way acquisition may now total $280,000.

Federal gas tax funds will pay for a majority of the project, but the county will likely have to borrow from future allocations for the balance.

County highway department workers will chip seal paved roads in the southeast part of the county this season.

They will also be grading gravel roads that have widened and retain water. A crown on the roads will allow water to drain away.

“Water should not have to be drained off our roads. They should have a crown on it,” Mattke said.

Now working in larger office space at the Beadle County Extension building, community health nurses assist low-income families and children in various programs to get infants off to a good start and to educate moms and dads on good nutrition practices, Julie Miller said.

Nurses also are trying to reduce the infant mortality rate. South Dakota’s rate is higher than the national average.

For the complete article see the 04-19-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-19-2013 paper.

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