Prisons struggle with meth epidemic

PIERRE (AP) – South Dakota corrections officials say they’re struggling to manage a growing prison population due to the state’s methamphetamine epidemic.

Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk told a state corrections commission Wednesday that South Dakota’s current prison population stands at nearly 3,910 men and women, compared to about 3,560 in 2015, the Rapid City Journal reported. The nine-person commission was formed to help the state Department of Corrections identify criminal justice issues and appropriate responses.

“The meth epidemic is the driving force behind what we are seeing,” Kaemingk said.

He noted that the majority of state inmates are nonviolent offenders. As of the end of June, 54 percent of male inmates and 84 percent of the women in state prisons in South Dakota fell into that category, according to the secretary’s data.

The Corrections Department is creating a program for nonviolent female offenders in Pennington County that would offer drug and alcohol treatment at home as an alternative to incarceration. As of October 2016, Pennington County female offenders encompassed a quarter of the state’s total female population in prison, which is the most out of any county.

The program is expected to benefit at least 100 women. The program, set to begin by May, is financed by a $1.75 million Department of Justice grant.

The department is now reviewing bids from service providers and will start recruitment and training in January.

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