Senate Judiciary Committee votes to advance repeal of presumptive probation

February 21, 2019 12:30 pm

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ACLU of South Dakota
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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.

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