“The toughest part is that we defend these people and we love them only to repeat the cycle.” 

The leader of the Minnehaha County Public Defenders office Traci Smith sums up the daily grind that involves working with those arrested for crimes.  Once the officer reads the Miranda Rights, if you cannot afford an attorney the Public Defenders are the ones to step forward to assist.

Smith recently filed her department’s annual report and at first glance, there is serious concern with the increase in serious crimes.  “I think what’s significant is we saw an 8 percent increase in felony cases and a 37 percent increase in cases where clients were facing a maximum penalty of 50 years to life in prison.”

Does this mean Sioux Falls is more dangerous?  Smith says not exactly.  “Recent changes with (Criminal Justice Reform) in Pierre might be a significant factor and why we might be seeing some of those changes (in more serious crimes).”

Smith has been in charge of the Public Defender’s office in Minnehaha County for the past 9 years and has been with the department for 15 years.