Billboards in South Dakota Address Incarceration Rates
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota has bought billboard signs in two South Dakota cities to bring attention to what they say is a need for smart justice reform.
A billboard that declares "People Not Prisons" went up in Sioux Falls right across the street from the Minnehaha County Jail and in Rapid City, through the November election.
Libby Skarin is the policy director, ACLU of South Dakota. "We know that our women's prison in Pierre has a record number of inmates and that, generally speaking, we're locking up more and more people in South Dakota. And if we keep going down this road, we're going to have to build new prisons."
According to the ACLU, Native Americans make up nine percent of South Dakota's population, but 33 percent of the prison population. And only two percent of South Dakotans are African American, but they represent more than seven percent of people incarcerated.
Skarin notes that many factors go into those incarcerations. "We want to bring attention to and address the profound connection of crime to issues like mental health, addiction, employment, education, and housing. The attorney general has a really critical role to play and a lot of power, so we want people to recognize that they are also constituents of the attorney general and that they should be communicating their views to him or her."
Candidates for attorney general include Democrat Randy Seiler and Republican Jason Ravnsborg.