Governor Kristi Noem has one hammer—deregulation—in her tool box, and by gum, she’s going to use it to whack every problem. After she met with state penitentiary employees last week Friday, she lifted the prison’s mask mandate:
Noem’s move was spurred by a meeting she had with employees at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. They cheered when she told them they could remove their masks during a meeting Friday. The governor was at the prison to respond to an ongoing human resources investigation into complaints of low employee morale, shorthanded prison staff and insufficient tactical gear for corrections officers [“South Dakota Governor Lifts Mask Requirements in Prisons,” AP via Brookings Register, 2021.07.28].
Funny: I thought the anonymous corrections employees who sparked the Governor’s prison management purge were complaining about not enough consideration being taken for their safety. Their cheering the removal of protective gear indicates the opposite.
But hey, who needs higher pay or systemic reforms to address employee complaints when we can just plug this problem into our standing campaign rhetoric? And who needs preventative measures when our lazy pandemic response has already led to most prisoners getting sick?
South Dakota’s prisons last year suffered through one of the nation’s worst rates for infections. Two out of every three inmates were infected with COVID-19, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project [AP, 2021.07.28].