Hey, did you notice that one of the Corrections officials Governor Noem fired in response to an anonymous complaint about sexual harassment is complaining that she was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment?
Governor Noem fired three Department of Corrections employees last week and transferred three others. The only ax-victim the Governor named was Stefany Bewak, who was director of Pheasantland Industries, the prison’s labor camp. But Bewak is formally complaining to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the state has canned her as punishment for reporting allegations of the kind of harassment we thought Noem’s newly appointed prison watchdogs were looking for:
According to her complaint filed with the EEOC, Bawek says her termination was not justified, nor fair, but was in fact retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by Warden Darin Young on behalf of another female employee.
According to Bawek’s complaint, “Commissioner Darin Seeley of the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources had previously emailed all DOC Staff to announce that he was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct at the penitentiary and that any information…should be reported to him.”
…Bawek reported the alleged sexual harassment directly to commissioner Seeley over the phone. She told Seeley she was was “fearful of losing her job in relation” for reporting it.
“According to her complaint, Seeley said he would ‘look into it.’ and she was “never contacted…. again” [Angela Kennecke, “Fired DOC Worker Alleges Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment by Former Prison Warden,” KELO-TV, 2021.08.06].
Young denies harassing anybody; Noem’s people deny that they fired Bewak for reporting sexual harassment.
At the same time Noem fired the one Corrections employee who we now know has put her name to a sexual harassment complaint, the Governor’s Office also announced that it is paying criminal justice consulting firm CGL Companies of California $166,410 to spend four months reviewing the Department of Corrections’ “safety and security, organizational climate, and policy content and compliance, including the agency organizational structure, staffing, equipment protocols, ancillary operations in education and prison industry, and training procedures.”
CGL has been cited in previous press as a smart operator in prison privatization:
Bigger fish like CGL Companies have figured out how to vertically dominate the market: The company often approaches county governments with its own architects, contractors, and financial backers all in one package. It’s a way to privatize the system so that the cash-strapped county can lease its jails from a private company, says CGL’s chief business development officer, Eli Gage. (The rising popularity of private prisons, coupled with a projected 0.5 percent annual increase in national incarceration rates, will boost the industry overall, according to IBISWorld.)
Last year, CGL was acquired by Hunt Companies Inc., a corporation that specializes in big real estate projects such as military bases and shopping malls. To [Berkeley architect Raphael] Sperry, that suggests prison construction is a real estate gold mine. But that’s not to mention the many ancillary markets that have sprung up within the industry, such as the equipment contractors who install all those thousand-pound motorized doors, or the security electronics companies that design cameras to peer out of every corner. Even firms that treat prisons as a niche might have a principal architect dedicated to jail design, Gage says [Rachel Swan, “Punishment by Design: The Power of Architecture over the Human Mind,” SF Weekly, 2013.08.21].
CGL offers facility management and maintenance along with its consulting, planning, and design services. However, CGL Companies may not be a corporate devil pushing cash-strapped governments toward private prison operators. Just this spring, CGL told the Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Jail Oversight Board that it could save up to $7 million by deprivatizing one of its prisons.
South Dakota’s prison purge remains a puzzle. The anonymous complaint that set off the firings and other actions focused on inadequate staffing, pay, safety equipment, nepotism, and sexual harassment. CGL’s focus seems to be on facilities, not personnel. And the one known member of personnel who reported sexual harassment is out of a job.