Answering the Call: Drug Courts in South Dakota
Eckrich, Jerome, Loudenburg, Roland, South Dakota Law Review
In 1989, Florida became the first state in the union to implement a drug court. In 2007, South Dakota became the last. On July 1, 2007, South Dakota launched its first drug court--the Northern Hills Drug Court ("NHDC") of the Fourth Judicial Circuit. Based in Sturgis, SD, NHDC's success helped launch two more drug courts--in Pierre and Sioux Falls.
The term "drug court" is a misnomer. "Problem-solving" court better describes the court's function and intent. Communities develop a "problem-solving" court unique to their problems and their resources. For example, the first drug court in Miami, Florida was created to combat the major influx of cocaine into South Florida. In South Dakota, the Sixth Circuit's Stop DUI program was created as a problem-solving court to handle felony drunk drivers.
As of December 31, 2009, there were 2,459 drug courts in the United States, including adult, DWI, juvenile, family, tribal, campus, and veteran treatment courts. In addition, there were 1,189 problem-solving courts other than drug courts including truancy, mental health, domestic violence, child support, homelessness, prostitution, gun, parole violation and gambling courts. This article uses the term drug court to describe problem-solving courts in general. Although SD entered the field late, it benefited from the experience and the expertise of other states. (1)
This article attempts to do three things: (1) describe the history of South Dakota's drug courts, (2) provide an overview of the drug court model, including an empirical demonstration of NHDC's successful outcomes, and (3) survey some of the evolving legal issues unique to drug courts.
II. THE HISTORY OF DRUG COURTS IN SOUTH DAKOTA
In 2005, faced with skyrocketing methamphetamine use coupled with substantial incarceration costs, the South Dakota criminal justice system was overwhelmed. Opportunities to reduce recidivism for the addicted were few. The classic sentencing theory--punishment and isolation--was doing nothing to change the behavior of the addicted.
Beginning in mid-2005 a volunteer steering committee was formed to explore the possibility of creating a drug court in South Dakota's Fourth Circuit. (2) Following approval by Chief Justice David Gilbertson, the steering committee spent the next two years laying the groundwork for creation of the Northern Hills Drug Court. In 2006, a grant was obtained that provided the necessary funding for the nascent drug court. In July 2007, NHDC was founded and in September 2007 it accepted its first participant.
Originally, the NHDC served South Dakota's Fourth Circuit. In 2010-2011, the NHDC was expanded to include the Seventh Circuit. This combination allowed the Seventh Circuit judges to sentence felony drug offenders into NHDC. As of December 19, 2011, the NHDC had accepted forty-eight participants.
Two additional communities, Pierre and Sioux Falls, have answered the call for a problem-solving court. In 2007, under the leadership of Judge (now Justice) Loft Wilbur, the Pierre/Ft. Pierre community tackled the felony drunk-driving problem with its Stop DUI program. As of December 31, 2011, the Stop DUI court has accepted a total of thirty-four participants.
The most recent entry is the Sioux Falls drug court initiated by Circuit Court Judge Patricia Riepel. The Second Circuit Drug court, in operation since 2010, targets the multiple offenders, drug abusers who, but for drug court, are prison bound.
2012, however, ushers in a new era. In recognition of SD's success with the drug court model, the legislature, with endorsement from the Governor's office, appropriated funds to add two DUI courts. This will bring the total number to five problem-solving courts in the state of South Dakota. The Unified Judicial System hopes to implement expansion with the goal to have a DUI court and a drug court in each circuit within the next five to six years. …