The South Dakota Department of Corrections has agreed to foot the training bill for a group of Minnehaha County criminal justice officials seeking training on racial and ethic disparities in the juvenile justice system.
The five county officials are seeking acceptance into a Georgetown University program called Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice.
The group includes representatives from the Sioux Falls Police Department, Minnehaha County’s State’s Attorney and Public Defender offices, a circuit court judge and the county’s Racial and Ethnic Fairness Coordinator.
“We would be working with experts across the country who have had success reducing disparities in the juvenile justice system,” said Annie Brokenleg, who serves as the county’s Racial and Ethnic Fairness Coordinator.
In 2011, the Unified Judicial System implemented a program in Minnehaha and Pennington counties to help trim the numbers of juveniles being locked up before trial. The program was expanded to other parts of the state following its success.
South Dakota has seen a drop in the number of juveniles being placed in secure detention but has yet to overcome the racial disparity in the makeup of its population.
“I think there is more room for more programming that can fit the needs of all people in the community,” Brokenleg said.
Kevin McLain, director of grants and research at the Department of Corrections, said the training opportunity could play an important role in reducing the disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.
“By investing in these trainings for staff, maybe new initiatives and new ideas will be able to be identified,” McLain said.
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