In South Dakota, probation-related activities are handled by Court Services, a department of the Court. In general, Court Services monitors compliance with
sentences and court orders in both adult and juvenile cases. Court Services shouldn't be confused with Parole, which is administered by the State Department of Corrections.
You can find more information about state prisons and parole at the Department of Corrections site.
The First Judicial Circuit of South Dakota is comprised of 14 counties in the southeast section of the state including Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Buffalo, Charles Mix,
Clay, Davison, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson, McCook, Turner, Union, and Yankton Counties. There are 5 Court Services offices with a total of 24 staff members providing
probation services in the First Circuit. The administrative office and Chief Court Services Officer are located in Yankton along with 5 court services officers.
Other field offices in the circuit are located in Mitchell where the Deputy Chief Court Services Officer is located along with 4 court services officers; the Chamberlain
field office has 1 court services officer as does the Parker field office. The Vermillion field office has 3 court services officers, and the Lake Andes office has 2
court services officers. Each office also has a support staff position assigned. The Yankton, Mitchell, Vermillion, and Lake Andes office each designate 1 full-time
court services officer to the Juvenile Intensive Probation Program. With the inception of this program in 1997, we have instituted a level of community probation services
comprehensive enough to have successfully diverted scores of juveniles from Department of Corrections Institutions.
In any given month, Unified Judicial System statistics show approximately 1,100 adults and 350 juveniles under probation supervision by Court Services.
Several counties in the First Judicial Circuit border the states of Nebraska and Iowa which requires those probation offices to deal with scores of cases each year
from the other states under the terms of the Interstate Compact for Supervision of Adult and Juvenile Offenders, in addition to their own caseload. As a result of the
frequent interstate exchanges, court services officers in the First Circuit have become extremely knowledgeable and proficient in processing Interstate Compact cases.
Broadly speaking, the primary function of the Court Services Department in the First Judicial Circuit is to provide appropriate levels of probation supervision for
adult and juvenile offenders as determined by a nationally recognized, validated, and normed risk/needs assessment process. The emphasis is on public safety and rehabilitation
of offenders through enforcement of court-ordered conditions of probation. Another major function of court services is the preparation of hundreds of presentence investigation
reports and prehearing social case studies each year for both the adult and juvenile sections of the courts. The court services department also administers a 90-Day Diversion
program that has been vital in assisting children and families of the First Circuit in resolving minor infractions and avoiding further exposure to the juvenile justice system.
Underlying the supervision, investigative, diversion, and numerous other functions of the department, are countless collateral contacts and interactions with a wide variety of
other agencies and court personnel, law enforcement, the public, schools, probationers, victims, and families.
The Court Services Department of the First Judicial Circuit has been at the forefront of a statewide effort to develop and provide the most effective probation services possible,
and has piloted several programs that have gone on to be instituted statewide. The National for State Courts was brought in to assist the Unified Judicial System in the development
of a "Best Practices" model utilizing over 30 years of nationwide research and development in to "what works" in probation. As a result, we now have clear guidelines for
determining the most efficient expenditure of the resources allocated to the department. The probationers posing the highest risk of renewed criminal conduct receive the
greatest share of probation resources. And while this group of offenders poses the greatest risk to the community, they will generally also show the most improvement with
appropriate programming. Effective supervision and training will reduce the likelihood of their ending up in prison and help them become productive members of the community.
A wide range of programs, including cognitive/behavioral therapy, target problems such as anti-social attitudes, undesirable peer associations, substance abuse, anger and self
control issues, and a lack of problem solving skills.
The dedicated officers of the First Judicial Circuit Court Services Department consistently strive to promote public safety and offender rehabilitation through appropriate
supervision and programming. Their goal is to both teach valuable life skills, and change anti-social attitudes, values, and beliefs in adult and juvenile probationers.
Additionally, the department has developed comprehensive family centered services in the circuit to address the unique needs of children in need of supervision and their families.
Taken together, the efforts of the court services department toward "Best Practices" in probation services, and more particularly the evidence based "what works" philosophy,
has led to better outcomes for probationers. The experience and knowledge gained through study, training, and program implementation have created a highly motivated and dedicated
staff of court services officers and support staff in the First Judicial Circuit.