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The High Cost of Sending People Back to Prison

There is an excellent editorial style piece on recidivism and its costs in South Dakota in the November 14th issue of the Dakota Voice.

The article indicates that the recidivism rate of people released from South Dakota prisons stands at about 30%, whether released by South Dakota parole or released due to completion of the sentence. This number compares favorably with other states in the area, Montana 42.1%, Iowa 33.9%, Minnesota 61.2%, North Dakota 39.6%, Wyoming 24.8% and Nebraska 32.3%, but the State Corrections Secretary Dennis Kaemingk says that the number should still be cut in half.

To help in this number South Dakota has taken action by forming the Re-entry Council which provides help to freshly released inmates by finding jobs, housing, transportation, treatment for addiction problems, and transportation.  This program is being run in conjunction with others by the South Dakota prison system and the the S.D. Department of Labor.

Laurie Feiler, the Deputy Secretary of Correction, is reported to have stated that the average inmate stays in prison for 17 months before release but that 25%-33% of those re-entering prison do so because of parole violations and not because they committed new felonies.  This is an important number in light of the realities of the costs of housing and providing for these prisoners in today’s budgetary crisis.

Kudos to South Dakota for taking affirmative steps to keep people out of prison and to make parole in South Dakota more effective rather than taking the approach of states like Texas and cutting programs making it more likely that there will be a return to prison rather than success as a productive citizen.

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