The Honorable Matt Michels
President of the Senate
500 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
Dear Mr. President and Members of the Senate,
I respectfully return to you Senate Bill 164, with my VETO.
Senate Bill 164 is an Act to revise the length of the maximum probationary period for juvenile probationers and to revise the conditions of a juvenile commitment to the Department of Corrections.
Under current law, a juvenile may only be committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections if, among other things, the juvenile has committed certain violent or dangerous crimes or has committed any crime and otherwise poses a significant risk of harm to another person.
I did not oppose Senate Bill 164 as it progressed through the legislative process because the bill originally included only Sections 1 and 2, which dealt with the duration of juvenile probation, and in that form I would have signed this bill. The objectionable language that leads me to veto this bill is in Section 3, which was added as an amendment on the floor of the second house after both committee hearings had been held.
Section 3 would allow a Court to place a juvenile in the custody of the Department of Corrections if the juvenile "presents a significant risk of physical harm to themselves." The term "harm to themselves" may encompass a broad array of factual scenarios: suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, tobacco use, drug or alcohol addiction, eating disorders, or many other potential behaviors or conditions.
These serious situations are best dealt with through counseling or treatment, not Department of Corrections custody, and resources are available in communities throughout the state to serve these young people. In fact, placing juveniles with these behaviors into DOC custody, alongside those with violent or dangerous offenses, could put these young people in greater danger or influence them toward more serious problems.
If a juvenile is at risk of self-harm, the Department of Corrections custody is not the best way to help that child. In its current form, Senate Bill 164 does not serve to better protect the public, and it puts juveniles at risk of unnecessary confinement.
For these reasons, I ask that you sustain my veto.
Click message to listen