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Janna Farley,

February 26, 2019

Today, the South Dakota Senate tabled a bill to study alternatives to tough-on-crime approaches to drug addiction.

The ACLU of South Dakota supported Senate Concurrent Resolution 7, legislation that would have created a task force to study and make legislative proposals regarding alternatives to incarceration for those convicted of the crime of ingestion of controlled substances.

Assigning years in prison to those who have a drug present in their system is disproportionate and causes more harm than good to individuals struggling with addiction, their families and their communities

“Though drug use is undoubtedly a serious issue, we can’t incarcerate our way out of addiction,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director.  “Instead of using an enormous amount of taxpayer funds to prosecute and incarcerate drug users, reclassifying ingestion as a misdemeanor and investing the resulting savings of state funds in diversion and treatment programs designed to combat addiction would go a long way in helping to solve the underlying problems leading to drug abuse.”

South Dakota is the only state that imposes a felony for ingestion of a controlled substance. Reducing the penalty for ingestion of a controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor would save the state an estimated $50 million dollars in department of corrections expenses over 10 years, according to a Legislative Research Council’s prison and jail cost estimate in 2018.

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 As new laws are created and others repealed or written, it’s important to ensure that these changes preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights.

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.

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