South Dakota, a state with one of the highest rates of juvenile incarceration, has just taken some meaningful action on the subject, as Senate Bill 73 – the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act – was signed into law today in Pierre.

After the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group was charged with making a series of recommendations, they found that incarcerated juveniles were costing the state big bucks while the current system still resulted in high recidivism. The legislation stands to provide more opportunities for community supervision, a low-cost alternative to incarceration that allows juveniles to be nearer their families. Then the bill will utilize the savings from the diversions and reinvest them in evidence-based programs that will lower recidivism.

Today Governor Daugaard signed the bill. He has made it clear that juvenile justice is a high priority for his administration, speaking at length about “right choice[s], that improve our juvenile justice system and strengthen our families and communities,” and specifically referred to the changes proposed in SB 73.

South Dakota is stepping forward and addressing one of their greatest problems. The state is setting an example that will lead others in the future.