South Dakota’s crime rate nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015. Violent crimes and drug-related offenses, in particular, have seen significant increases, which earlier this year forced the Argus Leader to ask: “Is South Dakota more violent than it’s ever been?”
I stand firmly behind the dedicated work of our law enforcement officers. To better enable their success in the field, improvements in the way the state approaches mental health and criminal justice are warranted. As governor, I am committed to being a partner to law enforcement, providing leadership and working collaboratively to create an environment in which both families and growing businesses can feel safe to call South Dakota home.
PREVENT WHEN POSSIBLE
Close the gateways. Whether the gateway drug is marijuana or a legal prescription painkiller, the slope toward addiction can often be a slippery one. As governor, I will oppose all attempts to legalize marijuana. At the same time, I will work with medical professionals and the state legislature to enact reasonable limits on opioid prescriptions and support provider education and training.
Implement research-based meth prevention programs. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50. In South Dakota, drug use, including methamphetamine use, is rising dramatically. In fact, drug arrests hit their highest point in a decade last year. We must change course. My administration will work to expand evidence-based education and prevention programs. Every South Dakotan should know and understand the signs of addiction as well as the dangers of meth use to aid in early intervention.
Get proactive on mental health. The criminal justice system is the state’s largest provider for the mentally ill, a costly responsibility it’s not fully equipped to handle. As governor, I would:
- Work to ensure there are an array of mental-health options throughout the state by leveraging tele-psychiatry, expanding resources in schools, and supporting a mental health facility West River;
- Promote crisis intervention training and help assemble local crisis response teams to support law enforcement;
- Partner with Employee Assistance Programs to expand options for South Dakotans, helping individuals with mental health needs before they commit offenses; and
- Support ongoing pilot programs that divert non-violent offenders with mental illness through treatment programs, rather than the criminal justice system, expanding those programs which produce positive outcomes.
Support local control of school safety. I believe local communities must have the ability to decide how to best protect their students. In the U.S. House, I helped pass legislation that gives schools more financial flexibility and resources to make those important decisions, while also creating more options for schools to engage mental health professionals. As governor, I will take the same approach, ensuring schools and communities have the flexibilities needed to assert local control and protect our kids.
Improve collaboration with Tribal Governments. Because federal and tribal authorities have jurisdiction over many crimes that occur on sovereign reservations, it’s imperative these entities have a strong relationship with the state. As governor, I would work to better collaborate with area tribes by opening dialogues on jurisdictional challenges, re-engaging on memorandums of understanding, and helping coordinate responses.
INTERVENE WHEN NEEDED
Equip law enforcement to fully enforce the law. As a conservative, I believe leaders have a responsibility to minimize government intrusion but maximize its impact. This is as true in criminal justice as it is anywhere else. South Dakota has always been a law-and-order, tough-on-crime state. I support that. But no matter how tough our laws are, they aren’t effective if law enforcement doesn’t have the technological, financial, or investigative resources necessary to enforce those laws. While working to maintain strong relationships between officers and the neighborhoods they serve, I am committed to ensuring law enforcement have technologies, such as body cameras, and the enforcement tools necessary to keep us and themselves safe – both in our communities and online.
Support specialty courts and evidence-driven programming. Because the swift and certain sanctions hold offenders more accountable, specialty courts help solve underlying problems to reduce recidivism long-term. Moreover, with uniquely trained judges, specialty courts are often more efficient than traditional criminal justice models. In consultation with Police Departments, Sheriff’s Offices, and States Attorneys, I would partner with the judicial system to incentivize the use of specialty courts as well as expand evidence-driven programming for non-violent offenders.
Leverage federal resources. I’ve fought alongside President Trump to strengthen support for law enforcement, including the expansion of the Community Oriented Policing Services grant. Having served as South Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House, I understand how these dollars flow to states. I will leverage that knowledge to ensure South Dakota law enforcement have access to every available resource.
REHABILITATE WHEN EFFECTIVE
Expand residential and family-based treatment options. Drug treatment programs that keep people out of jails, families together, and children out of foster care have proven to produce more effective outcomes in many cases. As governor, my administration will work to expand residential and family-based treatment options in South Dakota.
Prioritize victim-centered responses. We must keep the needs of victims at the center of our criminal justice system. Today, victim-service providers are active throughout South Dakota, assisting crime victims and ensuring their rights are protected. As governor, I will work to strengthen coordination between providers to further a trauma-informed, victim-centered response.
End the cycle of crime. If South Dakota taxpayers are asked to spend money to incarcerate an offender, our criminal justice system must work to reduce the likelihood that individual will reoffend. Recognizing that at least 95 percent of prisoners will be released at some point, we must strengthen our parole, re-entry, and rehabilitation programs. Workforce training is a critical component of this, and I’m committed to expanding successful ventures, such as the Housing Development Authority’s Governor’s House program. In this way, our criminal justice system will adhere to the same degree of accountability we expect from every area of government.