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Pennington  County Jail-Lowering Jail Population

Pennington County Jail-Lowering Jail Population

Pennington County unveils new process to safely lower jail population


News Staff - June 14, 2018

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Pennington County has implemented a new tool to safely reduce the jail population. As a person is booked on criminal charges, jail staff now use the Arnold Public Safety Assessment (PSA) to identify whether to release or hold an individual pending a judge’s review. In addition, judges are provided the PSA information to assist in determining an individual’s custody status pending next steps in their case.

The pretrial phase of the criminal justice process aims to protect public safety and assure defendants’ appearance in court. New changes to our bail process eliminates bail for low-risk, non-violent defendants.  No such person will stay in jail simply because he or she cannot afford to post bail.

In partnership with leading criminal justice researchers, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) developed the Public Safety Assessment™ (PSA) to help judges gauge the risk that a defendant poses.

This pretrial risk assessment tool uses evidence-based, neutral information to predict the likelihood that an individual will commit a new crime if released before trial, and to predict the likelihood that he will fail to return for a future court hearing. In addition, it flags those defendants who present an elevated risk of committing a violent crime.

“We are proud to be one of the communities leading the country in managing our local jail population,” says Sheriff Kevin Thom. “These policy-driven innovations will reduce jail bed usage while ensuring the county maintains its commitment to public safety.”

“Seventh Circuit judges look forward to having this additional tool to use in making pretrial release decisions,” explains Presiding Judge Craig Pfeifle. “It is consistent with our goal of reducing our local jail population for those of which we have limited safety concerns, and focusing the limited resources available on those that present a danger to our community.”

The implementation of this tool is one of the strategies for Pennington County’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge to safely reduce the Pennington County jail population by 20 percent over two years.

In October, 2017, Pennington County and the Seventh Circuit were awarded $1.75 million from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge to continue this important work.



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