Incarceration down by 23% in Pennington County
RAPID CITY, S.D. — At the Pennington County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday a criminal justice reform program took center stage.
The MacArthur Safety and Justice challenge has been implemented in the county for the past five years.
The program aims to reduce jail population and identify disparities in the local criminal justice system. It involves analyzing each criminal case and determining what programs would best help individuals break unhealthy and unlawful habits.
Cities all over the country participate in the challenge, but how it’s implemented is a department decision.
Here in Pennington County the challenge is for people of all ages.
“Our diversion program started very much with younger folk, partially because we believe they’re the most reachable and partially because they are the most numerous in the system,” says State Attorney, Mark Vargo.
Vargo adding that a majority of those incarcerated are men between the ages of 18 and 25.
During a presentation at the commissioners’ meeting, local officials shared that jail isn’t always the solution. If the underlying problem isn’t fixed, chronic incarceration becomes an issue.
The program is tailored toward minority populations in the area, specifically the Native American community. Although they are considered a minority population, they tend Native incarceration rates tend to be higher than that of other races or ethnicities in this area.
“We’ve worked then with organizations like seven directions, I am legacy on a broader scale,” shares Vargo.
Since participating in the challenge, incarceration in the county has gone down buy 23%.
Pennington County was the first in the state to join the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, and Minnehaha County is now joining the initiative.