(Exclusive content alert) Ag's response to Napoli proposal on non-violent prison facility

Here's a little exclusive content for you.

I would have made it more timely, but I wanted to ensure I had permission before reprinting the comments I was provided by Attorney General Larry Long.

If you will recall, about ten days ago State Senator Bill Napoli commented on how he felt we needed facilities for non-violent offenders in South Dakota. And Republican or Democrat, he was going to recruit whomever he needed to his cause:
State Sen. Bill Napoli proposed a new type of prison facility Thursday for nonviolent criminals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. And in an unusual move for a conservative Republican who has criticized GOP moderates for blurring political philosophy, he sought Democratic support for his plan.

"If I have to go to the Democrats to get this done, I will," the Rapid City incumbent from District 35 said during a news conference attended by both Democratic and Republican political candidates.

Napoli said South Dakota has a "terrible" incarceration rate, in part because of "Republican get-tough-on-crime" programs that he has opposed in the state Legislature.
(Read it all here as it appeared in the Rapid City Journal) After the article in the paper, and as it appeared with commentary on this website, In reply South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long provided his comments into the issue of reducing drunk driving recidivism and his office's efforts to possibly help drunk drivers recover outside of the general prison system:
I am not acquainted with the details of Sen. Napoli's plan, but I have been working on a different plan (with funding from the Gov's Public Safety people). I call it the 24/7 Sobriety Project. It is true that nearly 80% of inmates are in DOC because they committed their crimes while under the influence of alcohol.

My Project attacks the problem of chronic drunk driving. DUI felonies accounted for 1/3 of all felony convictions in SD during FY 99-FY04. We arrest the same people time after time for DUI. The problem is that we are recycling these defendants rather than tackling the root cause of their problem, namely, addiction to alcohol. My Project tackles the addiction.

Since Feb. of 05, I have asked judges to impose special bond conditions on anyone who is arrested for DUI who has at least one prior conviction for DUI within the last ten years. The conditions are First, no alcohol consumption of any kind under any circumstance. Second, stay out of bars. THIRD, report to the sheriff's office every day at 7 am and at 7 pm and submit to an alcohol breath test. If the defendant fails to appear, or appears and fails the test, he is immediately incarcerated and his bond is revoked. The judge will hold him a day or two and then let him out again to try to stay sober. Almost everyone gets it (and stays sober) after being incarcerated one or two times.

The idea is to teach the defendant to not drink alcohol. If that can be accomplished, the defendant will not commit a third DUI (a felony), or some other crime (burglary, forgery, theft, assault, murder) which will likewise earn the defendant a trip to DOC. We have excellent preliminary success. We have been operating in Minnehaha, Pennington and Tripp counties for nearly 18 months and have expanded into several more counties. We have administered over 150,000 examinations and have a success rate of roughly 99%. That means that 99 times out of 100, the defendant shows up on time and blows a clean test. Because he is sober, we are safer, he is safer, he is a better worker, he is not in jail, and he is making progress on overcoming his addiction to alcohol. Everybody wins. And, we are able to implement this program with minimum funding. We buy equipment, but are able to do the testing with existing employees, thus our only recurring cost is supplying the single use plastic tubes needed to operate the portable breath testing machines. (The tubes are $0.16 each).

The program is to be used in conjunction with treatment (both before and after) to help the defendant overcome his addiction. We have had some success. A thirty year old man in SFalls who has 7 DUIs has been sober for 10 months on our program. He rides a bike to the test site twice per day. A mother in her mid-forties with 4 DUIs has been sober on our program for six months. She says that her family had disowned her because of her drinking, but she was allowed to attend her son's graduation and her daughter's wedding because she was sober. We are making a difference in these people's lives. I hope to take the program statewide next year.

We are sponsoring a regional workshop in Sioux Falls on this topic on September 12 and 13.
Clearly, a 99% success rate in the pilot program is something to stand up and take notice of. People are staying sober, and they aren't taking up jail space - a sentiment both the AG and Napoli seem to share as a common goal.

So, set your calendars, and watch for more on this program in the media as we approach the 12th and 13th.


Tammy said…
I'd sure like to see this program expanded to include EVERY teen with an open container violation or DUI--esp in our rural communities and on the reservations.

Let's stop the addictions BEFORE they translate to broken homes and ruined lives!
Anonymous said…
I heard about this program awhile back. It is a great idea. There are some whiners who say it's too rigid but it is a GREAT thing.
feasant said…
This is a great idea, get the drunk sober and back to work. The State does not have to feed and shelter them.

I hope it works, hopefully the individual does not go get drunk and kills someone while driving.

The jury is out!
Anonymous said…
Sen. Napoli certainly has focused attention to this problem and Sen. Napoli has it right. The time is right for doing something with the drunks, other putting them in jail time after time.

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