Barbara Pierce of the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) facilitated a panel at the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) South Dakota on Sept. 29 in Spearfish, S.D. The panel, Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Mental Illness, included Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn, and NAMI South Dakota Executive Director Wendy Giebink. The focus of the panel discussion was House Bill 1183, signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in March 2017, and progress made to date on implementing the legislation.

In 2016 and early 2017, CJI provided assistance to Chief Justice David Gilbertson’s Task Force on Community Justice and Mental Illness Early Identification. After seven months of study, this task force presented 15 recommendations to state leaders, resulting in House Bill 1183. The legislation:

  • Provides tools to law enforcement and communities to address mental health crises early and prevent jail admissions,
  • Expedites the completion of competency exams ensuring speedier court processing and shorter jail stays,
  • Strengthens opportunities to divert people from the criminal justice system into mental health treatment,
  • Improves access to treatment of those with mental illness in criminal justice system through training and studying treatment options, and
  • Requires stakeholders to continue to identify ways to improve criminal justice responses for those with mental illness.