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Prison populations rising again after 2013 reforms

Barbed wire sits along a wall at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield. (Republic file photo)

Men and women in South Dakota's state prison system increased this calendar year, according to data presented Wednesday to state government's Corrections Commission.

From January through August, the average daily population of male inmates passed 3,300 each month.

Female inmates numbered more than 500 each month since April.

The trends mark the first time inmate populations consistently reached those levels.

The Legislature approved changes in 2013 that Gov. Dennis Daugaard hoped would slow prison growth.

One reform called for judges to make more use of presumptive probation for Class 5 and 6 felonies rather than sentencing people to time behind bars.

They are the two lowest levels of felony crimes.

Attorney Timothy Bottum, of Mitchell, a commission member, said he foresees people who have been on presumptive probation returning to court on charges of new crimes.

"This snowball is going to grow more," Bottum said. "My gut tells me that number is going to get worse before it gets better."

The meeting in Sioux Falls was available to outside listeners through a conference call.

The average daily prison populations in August were 3,372 men and 523 women.

State Department of Corrections officials had estimated the August populations would be 3,205 and 435 with the 2013 changes.

Without those changes the populations were estimated to be 3,614 and 546.