Minnehaha County, South Dakota, May Avoid New Facility

Posted December 13, 2012
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

JDAI efforts in Min­neha­ha Coun­ty, South Dako­ta, to reduce the num­ber of non­vi­o­lent youth in deten­tion may allow the coun­ty to avoid build­ing a $14 mil­lion facil­i­ty. We were strong­ly con­sid­er­ing build­ing a new deten­tion cen­ter just 18 months ago,” Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er Jeff Barth said. It looks like now we’ll be OK for the fore­see­able future.”

In 2010, com­mis­sion­ers weighed in on an inde­pen­dent contractor’s rec­om­men­da­tion that Min­neha­ha would need to replace its 61-bed juve­nile deten­tion cen­ter to accom­mo­date new growth. The con­trac­tor called for a new 100-bed facil­i­ty. Min­neha­ha com­mis­sion­ers are rethink­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion in the wake of a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in aver­age dai­ly pop­u­la­tion at the cen­ter, a decrease mir­rored statewide.

Judge Douglas HoffmanBetween 2000 and the fis­cal year that end­ed June 30, 2011, the state Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions’ aver­age dai­ly youth pop­u­la­tion fell by 31 per­cent, from 1,141 to 790. Min­neha­ha Coun­ty deten­tion cen­ter direc­tor Todd Cheev­er told coun­ty com­mis­sion­ers the aver­age pop­u­la­tion there had dropped from 45 in Jan­u­ary to 25 in May. Cheev­er also pre­dict­ed the low­er num­bers would allow him to shift resources with­in his depart­ment bud­get to alter­na­tives to detention.

Over half the juve­niles jailed at the deten­tion cen­ter in 2009 were held for pro­ba­tion vio­la­tions, such as drink­ing, or tech­ni­cal infrac­tions as minor as skip­ping school or smok­ing cig­a­rettes, accord­ing to the county’s deten­tion uti­liza­tion study.

We are now review­ing each indi­vid­ual intake to find the least-restric­tive method of pre­tri­al super­vi­sion that is com­men­su­rate with pub­lic safe­ty and the best inter­ests of the child involved,” said Dou­glas E. Hoff­man, Cir­cuit Court judge, Sec­ond Judi­cial Cir­cuit. In this process we are putting to greater use the many viable alter­na­tives to secure deten­tion that are already avail­able in our com­mu­ni­ty … and work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to devel­op new alternatives.”

Min­neha­ha imple­ment­ed a risk assess­ment instru­ment in July. Before that the county’s pro­ba­tion offi­cers changed a pol­i­cy under which pro­ba­tion vio­la­tors were auto­mat­i­cal­ly detained. Pro­ba­tion offi­cers now dis­cuss deten­tion alter­na­tives with their supervisors.

Reduc­ing the deten­tion num­bers at the juve­nile deten­tion cen­ter has freed-up funds that can be re-allo­cat­ed to oth­er more effec­tive meth­ods with­out increas­ing costs to the tax­pay­ers. We are already see­ing pos­i­tive results from these efforts,” Hoff­man said.

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