The South Dakota Council of Juvenile Services elected long-time member Beth O’Toole as its chair in December. O’Toole has been a part the council for 12 years, and she’s professor of social science and criminal justice at University of Sioux Falls.

This week, O’Toole departs for Hawaii to lead students on an annual educational trip during USF’s January interim semester that lasts through the end of the month. From teaching creative writing to convicted drug offenders at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, to leading “7 Days of Service” at St. Francis house in December, O’Toole is highly active in the Sioux Falls community.

“South Dakota has worked very hard to improve its system and services for youth,” O’Toole said. “It is exciting to provide leadership to this group of dedicated professionals who work toward improving our state's juvenile justice system every day.”

Governor Dennis Daugaard reappointed O’Toole to her fifth three-year term on the council in 2017 where she most recently served as vice chair. The council helps establish South Dakota’s policy for juvenile justice issues and funding. Specifically, it ensures state compliance with the federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act, which looks out for the care and treatment of youth in the justice system.

Community judges, law enforcement, state’s attorneys, educators, representatives of juvenile justice agencies and youth members serve on the council.

Joy Lind, Vice President of Academic Affairs at USF knows just how active O’Toole is in her community.

“Beth’s community involvement in her field is a living testament to what she is teaching in her classroom,” said Joy Lind, Vice President of Academic Affairs at USF. “Like so many professors at USF, she is multifaceted and outstanding on many fronts.”

The creative writing project at the penitentiary works with people nearing the ends of their sentences and preparing to return to the community.  The hope is to teach them to construct their own personal narratives, then take the common threads from their stories to inform public policy on prevention, confinement and reentry.

“I teach my students that they will be interacting with people on what may well be the worst days of their lives, so it's important for them to learn to be compassionate professionals,” O’Toole said. “I'm a big believer that we take our gifts, whatever they may be, and use them to improve the world around us.”

The January trip to Hawaii encourages students to learn through serving and exploration. It involves beautiful beaches and scenic beauty, yes, but more than that, it’s an opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture and people. It gives them a guided opportunity to consider history, astronomy, language, oceans and volcanoes, wildlife and the economy.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will hold its October 2018 term on University of Sioux Falls’ campus. The session is open to the general public.

To find out more about the Criminal Justice program at USF and the other top-notch professors in the program visit: https://www.usiouxfalls.edu/academics/criminal-justice

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