Minnehaha County, South Dakota


Minnehaha County near South Dakota’s southeastern border is the state’s most-populous county. The County is known for its ability to develop cross-collaborative leadership partnerships to produce positive outcomes. The local governments are poised to make significant change through several substantive initiatives to better address social and behavioral issues within the community and ultimately, impact drug addiction, juvenile justice, and affordable housing, to name a few.

Minnehaha County, with leadership from partner agencies and departments, convened a local juvenile justice collaboration that reduced utilization of the juvenile detention center while re-investing dollars to support community-based programming including a youth reception center, evening report center, shelter care, and community supervision.

With support from the MacArthur Foundation’s Innovation Funding, an inter-agency collaboration produced a concept plan to implement a Community Triage Center and a comprehensive baseline report to track all progress and community impacts.

To build on past efforts, Minnehaha County was awarded $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to implement strategies to continue building partnerships between the justice system and the community to improve outcomes for local residents. This new round of funding will provide Minnehaha County and partners with additional support and expert technical assistance to implement strategies to address justice system practices that affect the target populations of people with mental health and substance abuse issues, people of color, and those with long lengths of stay in jail.

Implementing a data-driven decision-making process is critical to achieve results. One of the positive outcomes is a safe reduction of the jail population that includes the target populations listed above. Minnehaha County developed a comprehensive plan focused on developing a continuum of responses and furthering community-based collaboration at each justice system decision point.

Key strategies and initiatives achieve meaningful collaboration with the community and create a safer, more effective system. These efforts revolve around pre-arrest and pretrial strategies, improving case processing efficiency, community engagement, and enhancing services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues involved with the justice system.

  • Minnehaha County and the community need to develop more community-based responses for those with behavioral health needs, improve case processing length, and address racial disparities in the justice system.
  • Roughly 24% of the jail bookings and 37% of jail bed daysinclude those who self-identify as having a behavioral health or substance abuse issue. On average, individuals with behavioral health or substance abuse issues who enter the county’s jail spend an average of 14 days in detention. Those who do not self-identify with a behavioral health issue stay an average of 7.5 days.
  • There are a large number of individuals who booked and released within a few hours or under 3 days. In an analysis of a recent 12-month period, 51% of individuals released from jail were there less than 24 hours and 27% were released within 3 days. On a given day in April, around 74% of the jail population was pretrial. Pre-arrest and pretrial release and processing options will be researched to build upon what is already in place.
  • Despite making up 8.4% of the general population, African Americans represent about 14% of jail releases and American Indians represent about 31%, totaling 45% of the jail releases, on average.
  • Minnehaha County and partners will continue developing community-based responses for the justice system to use at each decision point to ensure effective and efficient systems that meet the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues.
  • This will include implementing five key strategies, such as pre-arrest diversion, developing targeted pretrial release options, improving case processing, creating warm handoffs and access to treatment and support services for individuals with behavioral health needs, and further investigating the racial and ethnic disproportionalities.
  • Over the next two years the county will plan to:
    • Improve case processing efficiencies by creating a system map to identify decision points to inform case management plan development and implementation;
    • Review pre-arrest options including referrals to enhanced services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues involved with the justice system and investigate the citation process;
    • Develop a community engagement plan to identify strategies to engage impacted communities and address racial and ethnic disproportionalities; and,
    • Expand and build upon current pretrial release options to meet the needs of target populations and to expedite justice system processes.

Minnehaha County will implement forward-looking, smart solutions, supported with $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge. Stakeholders will strive to implement community-based options at justice system decision points with the goal of reducing the local jail population by 18%, while not compromising public safety, over the next two years.

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