PIERRE — South Dakota traveled a long way since Gina Score.
The teenager’s death came 15 years ago, during a forced run at the State Training School for juvenile offenders in Plankinton.
Boot camps were the fad then for dealing with many of the teenagers in trouble.
Bill Janklow was governor. It took several very hard years to realize the mistake he made.
Yes, there were letters from parents who saw improvements by their children.
There were also many days when teenagers caused violent incidents while they were in the state system.
Janklow went into the Marines as a teenager in trouble, rather than finish high school. He thought the same treatment might make the difference for others.
The boot-camp approach erupted into a fierce political war in South Dakota that went on for years.
If you looked into the faces of mothers and grandmothers at meetings where Janklow spoke, you could see he wasn’t reaching many of them.
In the end he listened to his wife. Mary Dean Janklow said Plankinton’s camp should be closed.
After he finished his fourth and final term as governor, a new era gradually took root.
The Legislature in 2003 revived an old panel and renamed it the Council of Juvenile Services.
The purpose was to bring South Dakota into federal compliance.
One of the first appointees was Carol Twedt of Sioux Falls. She was savvy and seasoned in politics, proven by 20 years on the Minnehaha County Commission.
Twedt is still a member of the state council. At a recent meeting, she mentioned in passing that she wouldn’t seek another year as the chairman, but she would like to be reappointed to one more term.
She is a close friend of Mary Dean Janklow and was a big political supporter of Bill Janklow. That was Twedt on stage in Flandreau on a snowy night in 1998 when he announced he would seek a third term as governor.
Another believer in the council is Arlene Ham Burr of Rapid City. She was a Republican senator in 2003 when the law was passed. She currently serves on the council.
Another is Karen Jefferies, a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe judge, who was appointed in 2005 to the council.
Another is Doug Herrmann, who was at the Custer youth facilities during Janklow’s time and now heads juvenile corrections.
The council connected with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to bring the JDAI — juvenile detention alternatives initiative — to South Dakota. Recently the state court system took over responsibility for JDAI.
The council is helping start-up programs on prevention in Aberdeen, Watertown and Sturgis.
It’s also sending money for researching why disproportionate percentages of minority youths are in contact with law enforcement in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
Youths in state facilities are on a gradual, long-term decline, as the state court system and prosecutors divert more kids in trouble into other forms of help and care.
Numbers tell the story. Ham Burr leaned over to Jefferies as the latest meeting ended.
“It’s working,” she told her. “It’s working.”