According to state crime data, the number of juvenile arrests on drug charges such as possession, use and distribution nearly doubled from 579 in 2008 to 1,043 in 2012. Since 2012, the number of juvenile arrests for drug crimes hasn’t fallen below 948. The number peaked at 1,062 in 2015, the same year a set of sweeping new juvenile justice reforms went into effect.
State officials are uncertain whether the upward trend in arrests means that more young people are actually using drugs, if more are being caught due to increased enforcement, or whether the juvenile justice system reforms of 2015 that sought to keep juveniles out of jail has inadvertently led to a higher re-offense rate by some juvenile drug users. The number of juveniles arrested for all other crimes not related to drugs has fallen across the state in recent years.
The rise in juvenile arrests comes as the state is already grappling with increased arrests of adults on drug charges. The number of adults arrested for drug crimes in South Dakota climbed from 2,778 in 2008 to 9,080 in 2018, an increase of nearly 227%.
Read the full story at the Jamestown Sun.