48 S.D. L. Rev. 171 (2003)
South Dakota Criminal Justice: A Study of Racial Disparities

handle is hein.journals/sdlr48 and id is 181 raw text is: A STUDY OF RACIAL DISPARITIES

SOUTH DAKOTA CRIMINAL JUSTICE: A STUDY OF RACIAL
DISPARITIES'
RICHARD BRAUNSTEIN & STEVE FEIMER
This research analyzed data from the State of South Dakota's
judicial, investigations, and corrections departments. Preliminary
findings from the analysis suggest disparities in a number of areas,
but offer no explanations of why these disparities exist because of
limitations in the dataset analyzed. However, the analysis of race
disparities in the state 's criminal justice system identified concerns
for equal treatment of American Indians in areas of legal
representation, case dispositions, sentence length, and prison time
served. The research also observed an encouraging reduction in
race disparities in the area of parole determinations after a 1996
legislative reform of the parole system. Finally, the research
addresses the need for additional research on regional disparities
within the state, the impact of federal jurisdiction on state-level
criminal justice, and more detailed demographic data to allow a
more   reliable  evaluation   of  the   explanations for disparities
observed.
OVERVIEW
In March of 2000, The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a report
on the treatment of American Indians in the South Dakota criminal justice
system.2 The report, based largely on anecdotal evidence provided at a public
hearing, criticized South Dakota for maintaining a dual system of justice where
race is a critical factor in determining how law enforcement and justice functions
are carried out.    In response to the report, the Governor of South Dakota
contracted the authors to examine whether the Commission's findings were
supported by empirical data from the state's judicial, investigations, and
1. The authors wish to acknowledge the support given to this research by the South Dakota
Governor's Office. That support came in the form of both financial assistance for the research and also
through offering unfettered access to records and consultation. The authors also wish to recognize the
contribution of several research assistants to this project. Those individuals, in alphabetical order,
include Rachel Anderson, Janet Benton, Billie Kingfisher, Larry Kruger and Mike Teideman. They also
wish to acknowledge the considerable support given to the project administrators at the South Dakota
Division of Criminal Investigations, Unified Judicial System and Department of Corrections. We would
also like to acknowledge the technical assistance received from Larry Kuzmal at BIT, the SPSS
Technical Support Team and Doug Goodman of the Computer Science Department at the University of
South Dakota who developed the means to create a sophisticated sentence length variable that was
essential to this research. Finally, the authors owe a debt of gratitude to both William Richardson, Chair
of the Political Science Department at the University of South Dakota, and Ken Meier from Texas A&M
University, who offered sound advice and moral support at several stages of this research.
2. Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, S.D.
ADVISORY   COMM. TO     THE   U.S. COMM'N     ON   CIVIL  RIGHTS,  March   2000,  at
http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/sdsac/chl .htm.

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