South Dakota could soon implement a young adult rehabilitation program

Inmates aged 18-25 may soon see more opportunities for diversion.
Inmates aged 18-25 may soon see more opportunities for diversion.(KOTA KEVN)
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 12:10 AM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Criminal justice statewide may see a change in the outcome’s adults between the ages of 18 and 25 experience.

On Thursday, the Barriers for Emerging Adults Task Force released its final reports and recommendations to the Governor, Chief Justice, and state legislature.

This task force was created by HB 10-63 during the 20-23 legislative session. Their goal was to examine how effective diversion can be for young adults.

As part of the task force’s recommendations, they are asking the legislature to create a funding mechanism to support the diversion process. This will allow the criminal justice system more options when considering sentencing for young adults.

The task force also recommends prioritizing training for any new diversion processes implemented, to revise statutes to allow flexibility for 18 to 25-year-olds, and to encourage a change of mindset across the justice system.

Pennington County State’s Attorney Lara Roetzel emphasized this isn’t a soft approach to crime.

” You’re never going to hear me talking about wanting to hug a thug, I’m very firm on crime, but this is a special population that deserves to be treated in a special way and I think that’s what this report represents,” said Roetzel.

The reasoning for these recommendations is based on data that suggests brain development does not complete until 25 and that young adults are highly susceptible to peer pressure.

For Pennington County, diversion is a familiar topic.

“Pennington County is uniquely situated to be helpful in that regard because of the past five years we’ve done adult diversion program in our county, no other county in the state of South Dakota has done that,” said Roetzel.

Roetzel says these changes could be implemented as early as the next legislative session.