Jails are unpopular with voters, but money still needed, lawmakers say
Task force could explore new ways to pay for jails following bond vote failures
South Dakota lawmakers could consider new ways to pay for county jails because traditional methods used to fund construction of those facilities are proving unpopular with taxpayers.
That was one theme that emerged during a legislative hearing Wednesday where officials brainstormed solutions to South Dakota’s festering jail space shortage. Typically, new jails are paid for by counties through bonds paid off with property taxes. But voters have repeatedly rejected those bond issues in recent years, leaving counties with obsolete facilities that can run afoul of federal civil rights requirements. That makes them vulnerable to lawsuits.
Lincoln County in 2020 was one of the latest counties to reject a bond issue for a new jail.
“The voters said, ‘No thanks,’” Rep. Greg Jamison, R-Sioux Falls, said. “The jails can’t get funded.”
Vice-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Incarceration Construction Fund, Jamison said voters would rather fund schools or other projects.