It’s no secret in South Dakota that the drug court system is badly broken. Just talk to any country sheriff, police chief, county prosecutor or judge. The state legislature has imposed sentencing laws that virtually make it impossible for drug offenders to get out of the system and find rehabilitation programs that work.
That’s why we’re going to take a look at exactly how it is not working today and why there is a revolving door of drug offenders in this state. Most of them are on a merry-go-round and they can’t get off. The fact that there is a readily available supply of drugs in the state’s prison system is shocking and certainly does not help non-violent drug addicts get the treatment they need. In fact it’s the opposite. By sentencing drug offenders to prison, their pattern of bad behavior is simply allowed to continue or made worse.
The situation has gotten out of hand because there are no suitable drug rehabilitation facilities in South Dakota. Classes are mandated for offenders, but those are short-term and largely ineffective. They do little or nothing to cure the addiction. What is needed is a state facility that offers long-term 24/7 drug rehabilitation care, coupled with a life skills curriculum that will put the offenders on the right path when they complete the program.
This is exactly what some of our legislators are suggesting the former STAR Academy grounds be used for – a drug rehabilitation program with 24-hour supervision for addicts. There simply doesn’t appear to be any other option than professional, around-the-clock supervised programs for our state’s drug addicts. What we are doing now certainly doesn’t seem to be working as addicts are caught up in a never-ending round of using, prosecution, sentencing, imprisonment, and using, all over again.
This situation has come to a point of being beyond ridiculous and must be fixed before it gets any worse than it is now. It surprises us that something hasn’t been proposed by now to try to get a handle on this epidemic situation. Convicted non-violent drug offenders are not getting the help they need. They simply are being turned back into the same environment they came out of once they have served their time.
The legislature has passed laws mandating drug sentences as high as 50 or 60 years depending on the type and number of charges for a non-violent drug offender. Then the judge may reduce time served to two and a half years because there is no place to send these people in our crowded penal system, and certainly no place to send them for extended addiction treatment in the state.
It’s time the legislature takes a serious look at this situation and take some action. Sure, it will probably cost some money, but there seems to be no other alternative.We’re throwing money at the problem now with very poor results.