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Worker Shortage Forces Hughes County Jail to Turn Away Lucrative Federal Prisoners

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!


  1. grudznick 2021-08-02 20:35

    Toking the demon weed is, after all, a federal crime. Federal law makes it illegal to use, possess, grow and sell marijuana. There is no exception for the medical or so-called “recreational” use of marijuana in federal law. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a federal criminal offense.

    Let the fellows having fisticuffs over dancing girls at the Ft. Pierre bars out of the jail and leave the beds available for these federal prisoners.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-08-02 21:17

    I don’t believe anyone got arrested in the bathroom in Ft. Pierre. The way back to Pierre you never had any weed. Some things are simple grudz.

  3. Scott 2021-08-02 22:43

    So where are all these law enforcement people who Noem claimed were coming to SD?

    Talking with a U Haul dealer this morning and he said he can not keep U Haul trucks or trailers on his lot. He said in his opinion Noem mouth is hurting SD. He said this spring/summer has been crazy with people moving out of the area. He said if he had a truck come in over the weekend I would not have been able to get on his shop lot this morning because so many would be stopping and trying to rent it.

  4. M 2021-08-03 07:33

    S.D. has an incarceration problem. The answer to everything is to throw them in jail. Those in charge have no idea how to think outside the box, like many of you readers who love to toss people in jail even for smoking a joint. Fill those cells with people of poverty, people of color, and people with priors. Fill those cells to profit off those who can’t pay a fine, like a debtors jail.

    Law enforcement in this state should start making missing persons, rape and murder cases a priority, instead of all the easy arrests for the sake of filling the cells to justify the expense to taxpayers. There are dozens of open cases in the county where I live as far back as the 1970’s. I suspect there are hundreds across the state.

    The powers that be should keep murders like our state’s attorney off the street and it’s so offensive that someone like him can still drive. I’d guard his cell for free just to see him pay his dues. I have no respect for the law enforcement establishment in this state however I do care about individual law enforcement officers. Talk to them because they want to do more than traffic stops and busting kids for pot. Some tell me they’d like to spend more time with community outreach with a host of programs that are instructional and preventive. They want to be a positive influence instead of someone that is just out there to arrest people.

  5. John 2021-08-03 07:39

    Ah, thank you for this glimpse inside the prosecutorial, policing, prison, legislative industrial complex.
    Build big jails and YOU HAVE to FILL them. No wonder the US is the world’s most incarcerated nation.

    That’s pathetic. The US is not the “land of the free”.

    Lawrence County commissioners are raising taxes to build a bigger jail. Meanwhile in the same month they cut county support to the 4 libraries by 10%. This screams of the republicant values and priorities.

  6. Nix 2021-08-03 07:47

    Maybe Super Trooper Ricky Miller and
    Sheriff Davie Thoms, The Dope Queen of Delusions circus fleas can help.
    Oh, wait…
    They’re tied up in a lawsuit.

  7. Misty 2021-08-03 08:53

    Pay the people at the Hughes County Jail more money. Law enforcement is underpaid. Jails were created to hire protect people. Lawrence County did not need a new jail. A couple of commissioners wanted their name on a plaque. The petition against the jail was thrown out because of stupid errors. Next time you are in Rapid take a look around. It’s returned to the days of people passed out on the sidewalks and panhandlers begging for money, sometimes becoming violent. Innocent people deserve to be protected. Victims need to know they are safe.

  8. John 2021-08-04 11:00

    Big kudos to the LEOs who kept these dealer’s drugs off the streets on the eve before the Sturgis Rally.
    $2-3 million worth of drugs . . . measured by the pounds.

    Jails and prisons are for these dealers, and not for the wayward, muddled user who needs intervention and medical treatment.

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