HURON – Methamphetamine is a highly addictive controlled substance that is a major problem in Huron, but Beadle County’s drug court – functioning now for four years – is successfully turning around the lives of otherwise prison-bound individuals, Sheriff Doug Solem said Thursday.
The Regional Correction Center can house up to 62 inmates. Last week, 35 were doing time in jail, 27 of them for drug use.
“A big share of it has to do with methamphetamine,” Solem said at the annual State of the County luncheon.
“It costs us money not only to feed these people, tax dollars, but transferring them down to Yankton if so needed for mental health. It’s also putting a burden on Community Counseling,” he said.
Inmates who need to see a doctor have their medical expenses covered by county dollars as well.
But drug court, an alternative to prison for men and women who apply and are accepted, is working, the sheriff said at the luncheon, hosted by the Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau Governmental Affairs Committee, in conjunction with the Huron Kiwanis meeting.
Thirteen addicts are currently enrolled in the drug court treatment program.
They are highly supervised, attend classes and meet with a magistrate judge once a week to talk about what’s going on in their lives. But they remain in town and employed.
“The idea behind drug court is to keep them sober and keep them in the community, and it’s been working,” Solem said.
Three to four times a year, there is a graduation ceremony. It takes about 18 months to get to that point.
Beadle County’s jail averages about 30 to 35 inmates a day, who are supervised by 16 jailers working round-the-clock shifts. In a year, the jail provides 23,000 meals.
Solem said the jail administers the court’s 24/7 program for those arrested and convicted of drunk driving, domestic abuse or other crimes involving alcohol. Those people come to the jail twice a day for a court-ordered length of time and blow in a breathalyzer.
“Right now, we have about 35 participants in that, and the amazing thing is we used to have over 100,” he said. “Those are mostly DUIs.”
The court is also imposing the 24/7 requirement for controlled substance arrests. Those individuals remain in jail until they can provide a clean urine analysis. If ordered to abide by a 24/7 requirement, they come to the jail three times a week for a urine test. Eighty to 100 people are doing that, he said.
Solem and four deputies are in the sheriff’s department. They patrol Huron and the small towns in the county, in an area roughly 1,260 square miles, averaging a couple hundred miles a day.
“What we’re doing when we’re out on the road is we’re serving papers, a lot of papers,” he said.
They include summons and complaints, warrants, small claims, protection orders and evictions. In 2018, the officers served more than 2,337 sets of papers.
“The deputies tend to call it their paper route,” Solem said. “And sometimes, believe it or not, it’s a lot of the same people so we get to know them.”
But officers also spend a great deal of their time transporting prisoners to the men’s and women’s prisons in Sioux Falls and Pierre and to the Human Services Center in Yankton.
Solem said he spends a lot of his time in court and teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education classes in local schools, something he’s done now for 21 years.
“The reason I think I still do it is because I’m still set against drugs,” he said. It’s also good to get to know the kids, he said.
“I still believe Beadle County and Huron and the surrounding towns are all good places to live, and great places to raise a family,” Solem said.
“As sheriff and a member of the law enforcement community here in our county, I’d like to tell you we appreciate the support that we get from the Kiwanis and pretty much the complete public.”