The Corrections crunch isn’t unique to the state prison system. Even with those darned unemployment benefits cut back, better starting pay than the state prisons, and a big signing bonus, rookie Hughes County Sheriff Patrick Callahan can’t find enough talent to tend his bars:
Like other Pierre businesses, the Hughes County Jail is trying to hire more people with little luck in attracting new applicants. But unlike other Pierre businesses, the jail cannot close — ever.
Up on its hill east of downtown Pierre overlooking the South Dakota Women’s Prison, it goes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It starts paying at $18.45 an hour and is currently offering a $1,000 signing bonus [Michael Woodel, “Hughes Jail Short Staffed, Reduced Inmate Capacity,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2021.07.30].
Sheriff Callahan is so short-staffed, he has to turn away paying customers:
“We’re down anywhere from 30 to 40 percent depending on the day,” Callahan said of the jail’s current staffing levels. “I’ve got what amounts to one full shift open.”
…And though Callahan renounces the idea of making a profit from corrections, he acknowledges that Hughes County Jail holding fewer federal prisoners makes it more difficult for the jail to make up its costs.
“We use those federal dollars as income, they help offset the cost of running our jail,” Callahan said. “That we can’t take in as many federal prisoners means that we’re not recouping as much of our costs, and the more we hold, the more revenue we bring in to the county” [Woodel, 2021.07.30].
What? We’re losing out on federal dollars? Nobody in Pierre likes losing federal dollars. Either the Legislature needs to let counties raise more revenue to pay competitive wages (i.e., pay workers what they are worth), or we need to let local law enforcement put fewer local behind bars for minor infractions and keep those jail cells open for the paying federal customers!