Today, in a 5-2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Senate Bill 19, legislation that would repeal presumptive probation.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes Senate Bill 19. Presumptive probation, which was signed into law in 2013 as part of the Public Safety Improvement Act, requires that, when sentencing people for Class 5 or Class 6 felonies, courts are to sentence the person to probation, rather than penitentiary time. Judges, however, have the leeway to sentence low-level offenders to prison time if they believe it is warranted.
“The concept of putting fewer people behind bars may seem like a difficult stance to take in a state as conservative as South Dakota, but tough-on-crime policies can’t fix society’s problems – especially in regards to addiction,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South Dakota. “While there are examples of offenders who are a true threat to public safety and require incarceration, many others are nonviolent offenders whose sentences do more harm than their underlying crimes.”
According to the fiscal note from the Legislative Research Council, provided after the committee voted, repealing presumptive probation would cost South Dakota taxpayers more than $53 million over 10 years.
In addition to the ACLU of South Dakota, the Department of Corrections and the Bureau of Finance and Management opposed Senate Bill 19, along with organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the South Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Trial Lawyers Association and the National Association of Social Workers, South Dakota Chapter.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
Decisions made during the annual sessions of the South Dakota Legislature have a deep and lasting impact on our state’s people and communities. As new laws are created and others repealed or written, it’s important to ensure that these changes preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights. For up-to-date information on the bills the ACLU of South Dakota is tracking, go to www.aclusd.org.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection, and privacy are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBT communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for people of South Dakota.