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ACLU Says Ravnsborg’s SB 19 Will Put More People in Prison, Cost $224M

Our new Attorney General may be a bigger idiot than Donald Trump, but at least we have the American Civil Liberties Union to talk sense about policy. The ACLU of South Dakota says Senate Bill 19, the part of A.G. Jason Ravnsborg’s tough-guy act where he repeals presumptive probation, will hurt offenders, families, and taxpayers by increasing prison populations:

We oppose this legislation. Presumptive probation, which was signed into law in 2013 as part of the Public Safety Improvement Act, requires that, when sentencing people for Class 5 or Class 6 felonies — classifications that include many common low-level, non-violent drug offenses, such as the distribution of relatively small amounts of marijuana — courts are to sentence the person to probation, rather than penitentiary time.

South Dakota should preserve the presumptive probation reforms made in 2013 and recognize that prison terms for low-level offenders cause more harm than good by preventing offenders from staying in their communities where they can work and care for their families, said Libby Skarin. Presumptive probation still allows judges to sentence low-level offenders to prison time if they believe it is warranted – a necessary element to ensuring judges make decisions based on their expertise and knowledge of the facts in each individual case. If presumptive probation is eliminated, taxpayers will be on the hook not just for the cost of incarcerating non-violent offenders but also for the cost of expensive new prison facilities to house them [ACLU-SD, statement in opposition to SB 19, 2019.01.07].

ACLU’s policy director Libby Skarin says SB 19 could force us to spend more than $224 million to build new cages for all of the low-risk offenders Ravnsborg needs to create the impression that he’s doing something. The Pierre Capital Journal, the easiest paper for the Attorney General to get a hold of, says, “Attempts to reach Jason Ravnsborg for comment on SB 19 were unsuccessful as of press time on Jan. 7.”


  1. Steve Pearson 2019-01-09 09:30

    224 Million for SD if we end it? Where is that data and how do they come up with it?

    To quote one of my favorite villains: “Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.”

    As I see more and more crime it starts to feel like we are the problem for rising instead of fighting it. Not very Christian I know…

  2. o 2019-01-09 09:32

    This is the section that got me: “But many families are struggling to get ahead. Parents lie awake at night and wonder if they are a medical emergency away from financial disaster. Or if they’ll ever be able to put money into a savings account for a new home.”

    To me, this is what ought to dictate tax policy: we ought to more heavily tax those who do NOT have these concerns, and more lightly tax – even help those who do have these concerns. I wish that the conditions of the less-well to do could stop being the stalking horses for the more-well to do to shirk their social responsibility. Instead of using the struggling to be the baseline for all policy, maybe the focus ought to be on those who can give more to give more. Instead of focusing only on small businesses when it comes to setting fair wages, the focus ought to be on the megacorporations with billionaire owners.

    Not raising taxes is the ABSOLUTE right answer — for SOME South Dakotans; it is the absolute wrong answer for the rest.

  3. o 2019-01-09 10:18

    Oops, somehow I cross-topic posted.

  4. mike from iowa 2019-01-09 10:36

    Ever wonder why god, in his/her/its mercy has ignored phony wingnut kristians since Raygun was elected by the immoral Majority? It is as if he/she/it really could GAS what is done in his/her/its name.

    At the very least one would think he/she/it would get rid of the sin if not the sinner.

    To sum this up, if there really is/was a god, he/she/it would not tolerate the shenanigans of the party of phony family values. Buh bye, suckers.

  5. mike from iowa 2019-01-09 11:19

    224 Million for SD if we end it? Where is that data and how do they come up with it?

    Did you bother to read the ACLU statement that Cory provided? Doesn’t sound like it.

  6. bearcreekbat 2019-01-09 11:57

    Here in SD our conservative leaders often genuflect to the ideas of our country’s founders. Well, Thomas Jefferson certainly was a founder – to paraphrase his original thinking about limiting government regulation and punishment of its people: “It does no injury to me for my neighbor to [possess or sell marijuana for medical purposes or recreation]. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    This seems worthy and wise advice for our leaders. There is no rational benefit to anyone individually, nor society as a whole, in jailing (or dehumanizing for that matter) people who commit victimless crimes.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-09 13:04

    Screw Steve Pearson. He asks ACLU and me for data when we cite facts he doesn’t like, but when his idiot-buddy Jason Ravnsborg says something absolutely unsupported by data and experience, Steve treats those words like Gospel and calls us names for questioning Jason’s divine rightness. Screw that, Steve, and screw you for bad-faith propaganda. Go home.

    ACLU and Libby Skarin have more policy knowledge and data in their pinky finger than Ravnsborg has in his whole body.

  8. Debbo 2019-01-09 16:08

    Perhaps the SDGOP’s scam for 2019 has been revealed: “also for the cost of expensive new prison facilities to house them.”

    We’ve already seen that Noem is wholly amenable to nepotism and its kissing cousin, crony capitalism. So how will this play out? As Mueller is demonstrating so effectively, the key is to Follow The Money. $$$$DGOP.

  9. bearcreekbat 2019-01-09 18:45

    buckobear – worthy thoughts indeed! Thanks.

  10. Tyler Vance 2019-01-09 21:41

    Yes. We need to get rid of this moron. Presumptive probation is keeping prison population down. States with higher population dont send lower level criminals to prison they serve county jail time. Times are changing. We need the people with narrow minds to not be in office. Just cause jason whatever the heck his last name is never got caught drinking and driving or never got caught with marijuana means just that. He never got caught. Marijuana is basically legal in 80 percent of the country but we are still trying to send people to prison for canabinoil. People get a DUI after 3 beers these days. Not likely the case 20 years ago. Seems it was harder to go to prison back or even to be arrested but now we want to make it easier for people these days to go to prison. Seems the millennial generation is held to a pretty high standard as well as a double standard.

  11. Chuck Point 2019-01-11 16:38

    We need to move in exactly the Opposite Direction that Ravensburg is recommending. The money is one thing. More importantly is the Damage done to the individuals and families for No Good Reason. We need to Stop this Bill. What can we do?

  12. Tina K Barnes 2019-01-11 20:04

    Keep the status quo on presumptive probation. The family and local community can do miracles to straighten out their youth, we do not need more sitting in prison because of a little marijuana. Go after street opiods if you want to accomplish something, get Fentanyl drug dealers.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-12 16:52

    What can we do, Chuck?

    1: Call your legislators, tell them to vote NO on SB 19 (still awaiting first date with Senate Judiciary, but start contacting those committee members now, especially Rusch and Schoenbeck).

    2: Record Ravnsborg’s appearance before Senate Judiciary to explain this bill. Savor and share his stupidity with everyone on your social media channels.

    3: Keep an ear out for Ravnsborg’s future statements on policy and take the opposite position. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be on the right side.

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