County officials push back on “racial quota” claims surrounding MacArthur funds

RAPID CITY, S.D. — In early 2015, Pennington County applied for and received funding through the MacArthur Foundations “Safety and Justice Challenge,” one of 20 locations nationwide.

“The goal of MacArthur is to allow folks that are a lower-level danger for our community to be released at an earlier stage in the process,” says the Hon. Craig A. Pfeifle, presiding 7th Circuit Court Judge. “That allows them to get back to family and community, get back to work, and again, saves our scarce resources for those folks that we believe are most in need of them.”

Since then, more than four-million dollars have been doled out for criminal justice-related projects in the county, like over-incarceration and jail misuse.

“[I] want to put it in perspective first: the City/County budget for this year was $318 million combined, but the MacArthur Grant for this year was $400,000,” says Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom. “The tail is not wagging the dog.”

Fkxjj8gxeaehm7nThese programs, county officials say, have been recently misrepresented in the community. Thom says the comments made by Grand Gateway Hotel owner Connie Uhre are a gross mischaracterization.

Other county leaders echoing that sentiment, saying it’s disheartening to hear that hard work going into the community is being misinterpreted to fit an ideology.

“For people to be upset about that and talk about some kind of racial quota because we’re trying to make sure that Native Americans are not over-incarcerated is nothing more than politics at it’s absolute worst,” says Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo.

MacArthur Grants have helped fund programs like the Care Campus, reforms to the system that Vargo says are both innovative and necessary.

“You know, the opponents of what we’re doing under MacArthur point out the people get out of jail too often.” Vargo adds, “I don’t know if they’ve noticed, but our jail remains full.”

For more information on Pennington County’s MacArthur Grants, click here.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News