An organization that represents police officers has endorsed Senate Bill 19, which would repeal presumptive probation in the state.
The policy has limited judicial discretion, Mike Walsh, president of the South Dakota chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, wrote on the FOP's Facebook page on Thursday.
Repealing presumptive probation — sentences of probation instead of prison for most low-level, non-violent felonies — is one of the top legislative priorities of Jason Ravnsborg, South Dakota's new attorney general.
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"Every case is different, and while some cases and circumstances warrant probation for a narcotics offense, it is a judge’s duty to impose an appropriate sentence without restriction. We believe that a 'one size fits all' approach to criminal justice is not the best option," Walsh wrote. "We feel that (SB 19) puts the duty and responsibility of sentencing drug offenders back into the hands of the judges, who know the facts of a case and a defendant."
The FOP joins South Dakota's sheriff and state's attorney organizations in endorsing the bill. In addition to strengthening judicial discretion, supporters say, repealing presumptive probation will help tackle the pattern of drug users cycling through jail and probation systems.
Opponents, such as the ACLU of South Dakota, say the move would increase the prison population with mostly non-violent offenders, and the state should instead focus on treatment and alternatives to prison.