Changing the Way South Dakota Treats Young Criminals
In January 2015, 20-year-old Maricela Diaz of Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and murder. Diaz was 15 years old when she committed the crime.
In December 2014, a Watertown teen was sentenced to 40 years for his role in the killing of a Sioux Falls drug dealer. Trevor Kruthoff was 17 when he committed the crime with 18-year-old Brian Anderson.
And just a few weeks ago, a 17-year-old and 19-year-old were charged with murder. Conner Hanson and Robert Montes are accused of shooting and killing 18-year-old Anthony Gabriel.
These recent cases highlight violent young people in South Dakota and have many wondering if juvenile crime is on the rise.
The short answer: No.
But that isn’t stopping state lawmakers from taking a hard look at the juvenile justice system.
Carole James has been prosecuting juvenile cases in Minnehaha County for the past eight years. She's seen the system move away from court rooms and jail cells, toward programs that focus on changing a child's behavior.
It's this approach that is getting more attention at the state-level as well. The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group studied the system over the past year and their findings turned into legislation working its way through the state capitol right now.
The hope is that by keeping kids out of the Department of Corrections now, they will stay out of the system down the road.
To read what the Governor Daugaard said, as well as what prosecutors and therapists have to say, read Meagan Millage full story.