Greeting and Salutations South Dakotans!
This week, I want to talk with you about what I believe is wrong with the criminal justice system, and what I believe needs to be done to fix it!
I believe we need tougher sentencing guidelines for recidivists (e.g. “If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime”, Tony Beretta). Not just for violent crime, but for crimes such as drugs and DUI's. If you want to see just how lax the laws are go set through MAG court one time. Dozens of defendants' parade up to the microphone and plead guilty or not guilty. The not guilty pleas are held over for pre-trial conference and jury trial. The guilty pleas are either set for sentencing on a future date, or the defendant agrees to be sentenced immediately.
The interesting thing is that almost every defendant is placed on a 24/7 program, and/or fined between $60 - $1,000. Most either pay the clerk and are free to go, or the court grants a period of time to enable the defendant to pay their fine, and they are free to go.
Now you would think that this was a good result, but not really. First, the fine is to low, and really only raises capital for the city and county government! Second, the sentence does not meet the offense. I say this because these defendants' return again and again! Not all of them, but a great majority do return because they didn't learn a damned thing. We might as well slap them on the hand, levy a fine and reserve a cell for them for the next time they break the law. For some unknown reason some people today believe that, "it's not illegal unless you get caught!" But I assure you, "even if you don't get caught, it's still illegal!"
In 2016, an accident occurred on E. 10th St. herein Sioux Falls. Apparently, a vehicle driven by a young man crossed the median and struck a mini van head-on. A mother and her children were in the van. The mother received serious injuries to her chest and head. I'm not sure if the children were inured or not!
Just one week before this accident happened, the driver of the truck was charged with his first DUI. One week later and he again was DUI and this time seriously injured at least one person. He was also driving without a valid license because you typically would have to surrender your license to the court in the first DUI case. The court would have revoked or suspended his drivers license for 30 days on the first DUI. This means he was also driving on a suspended license.
This behavior goes unpunished, but not unchecked. I mean that the criminal justice system fines and suspends licenses, but the defendants' don't really learn from their mistakes, not all of them.
I believe that punishment for 1st. Offense DUI's should be much tougher. South Dakota has a 1st. Offender Deferment statute that allows, within the courts' discretion, the power to defer the imposed sentence provided no like offenses are committed within the probationary period, usually between 1 - 5 years. This program should be continued.
The laws now, really have no prohibitive effects. It's like getting a slap on the hand and a fine; then they go right back out and do it again! If an offender breaks the law the second time, the sentence of 3 years on a road crew or perhaps in a manufacturing plant building renewable energy resources should be imposed.
We don’t need more prisons or county jails. We should explore options of bringing in companies that manufacture renewable energy equipment. If the offenders' repeat the same offense again, then a longer sentence should be handed down.
When elected Governor, I will create work crews out of petti-offenders. Our state infrastructure is in dire need of rebuilding, roads, highways, interstates and bridges. We could save millions of dollars in construction costs each year simply by leveraging our non-violent inmate population. These kind of crews are frequently utilized in other states. South Dakota currently has non-violent inmates building governor's houses in Springfield, SD.
We don’t need retribution, but rather restitution and reeducation. South Dakota has an available work force that we are not leveraging. We could also explore wind, solar and thermal heat & cooling technologies; instruct and teach inmates to learn new job skills. In short, we pay if forward and give these inmates self confidence, and self esteem. There's more things to do then get into trouble with the law. These programs would be for non-violent inmates. Why let them set in a jail cell when they can earn their freedom, and repay their debt to society by rebuilding our state's infrastructure!
Once your debt is paid to society, you have a right to live in peace. Provided you don’t break the law. The sentence must be significant to have a prohibitive effect.
I too believe in original intent when it comes to the Constitution. I believe in due process rights; competent attorney representation during all aspects of the process; and the right to a speedy trial. I believe in enforcing both the state and federal constitution's, and I swear to uphold them both to the letter. If you agree with my ideas let me know! Better yet, let your state representative know!