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Native Sun News Today: South Dakota continues to punish drug addiction

An exterior view of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Photo: South Dakota Department of Corrections

Felonizing addiction in South Dakota
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today Editor

RAPID CITY –– The arrest of drug offenders appears to be skyrocketing.

Statistics released for 2016 reveal that drug arrests in South Dakota increased by 13 percent over 2015.

In 2007 drug related arrests numbered 3,101, and by 2016 that number had grown to 7,671 which translates; drug arrests have more than doubled over the past ten years.

A report released in 2016 by The Criminal Justice Initiative Work Group made a direct correlation between the increase in the prison population in South Dakota and South Dakota’s policy of felonizing ingestion of a controlled substance.

South Dakota is the only state in the union that brands drug addicted individuals with a felony conviction through ingestion. And one of only four states to have the ingestion law on their books, but in the other three states, Utah, Connecticut and California, ingestion is classified as a misdemeanor.

While most states advocate addiction as more of a behavioral health issue than a criminal one, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and South Dakota State Legislators continue to wage their war on drugs through the penal system by enacting and pushing for stiffer sentences for drug addicted individuals.

On March 15 Governor Daugaard signed into law two anti-methamphetamine measures: SB43 and SB117.

“Meth is an extremely addictive drug that ruins homes and destroys lives. These bills will aid us in addressing the meth epidemic by stopping the drug from coming into our state, preventing meth use and helping those who are addicted,” Daugaard told the press.

While SB 117 creates incentives for successful completion of addiction programs for first time offenders, the strict supervision and oftentimes impossible guidelines set up many for failure. For those who fail, the bill enacts harsher penalties and the felony conviction stays on their record. Felony drug convictions pose many barriers to employment, housing and the ability to get their lives back on track.

According to Michael Winder, Communications & Information Manager for the South Dakota Department of Corrections the recidivism rate for one year after incarceration in 2015 was 23 percent.

“For those inmates who released from prison in 2015, 23.0%, or a little less than 1 in 4, were readmitted to prison within one year of their release date. That includes for a new commitment to prison or for a violation of their supervision agreement (parole or suspended sentence),” Winder stated in an email.

Native Sun News Today did not have the most recent recidivism rates for two and three years after release from custody as of press time. In 2016 The Criminal Justice Initiative Work Group reported a 50 percent recidivism rate for South Dakota.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Felonizing addiction in South Dakota

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at executiveeditor@

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