Press "Enter" to skip to content

DLR Group Proposes $608M in New Prison Construction Replace Penitentiary, Relieve Crowding, Improve Inmate Access to Work in Sioux Falls and Rapid City

At a crackerbarrel in Alexandria Saturday, an eager reader heard House Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R-19/Salem) refer to a proposal to spend a few hundred million dollars building a new prison. We have bills proposing $28 million for buying land and building a new community work center in Rapid City and $5.75 million to improve healthcare facilities and the Women’s Prison in Pierre (Senate Bill 32 and Senate Bill 33, both before Senate Appropriations Tuesday morning). The larger figures Representative Peterson ballparked in Alexandria appear to come from this statewide facility plan prepared by the DLR Group, which earned $323K to tell South Dakota it needs to spend $608 million over the next several years to replace the state penitentiary, centralize care for inmates with health issues, decentralize women’s incarceration with community work centers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and add a community work center for male inmates in Sioux Falls.

DLR Group projects over a 12% increase on our male and female inmate populations by 2041. The current occupational capacity of 4,002 is greater than the current inmate population of 3,261 and the high-end estimate of 2041 inmate population of 3,858; however, DLR Group says the Department of Corrections capacity estimate is “above what the consultant would recommend, based on industry best practices and recognized correction standards that would be applied in the planning and design of new facilities.” While South Dakota’s statewide prison system is operating at just over 81% of DOC’s recommended operational capacity, it’s operating at 118% of DLR’s recommended capacity of 2,775. The difference comes largely from DOC’s doubling up penitentiary inmates in cells designed for one occupant and similar increases in density beyond original design at other facilities.

DLR Group, "Statewide Facility Plan: South Dakota Department of Corrections," OSE# C1221–17x, 2022.01.12, p. 18.
DLR Group, “Statewide Facility Plan: South Dakota Department of Corrections,” OSE# C1221–17x, 2022.01.12, p. 18.

To ease the crowding, DLR Group recommends putting fewer people in prison—oh, no wait, there’s no money in that.

To ease the crowding, DLR Group recommends building a new 1,372- to 1,516-bed prison somewhere near Sioux Falls, to take advantage of workforce availability and supporting community services. One possible site mentions is the state-owned West Farm site ten miles west of the current pen, out in the country on 264th Street. The state operated a transitional program for juvenile offenders at the West Farm until 2012; since 2013, the state has contracted with Sequel Youth and Family Services to provide youth correctional services at that site. The plan would include 72 beds for inmates with assisted living needs and 72 beds for inmates with mental and behavioral health issues, with space to double both of those specialized incarceration spaces. DLR says that total capacity could be scaled back if the state chooses to build a 200-bed low-medium security men’s prison in Rapid City.

Once this facility is complete, DLR Group recommends decommissioning the current state penitentiary; however, the plan envisions maintaining the Jameson Annex, updating the intake/release processing area, replacing the open courtyard with a gym and support space, and turning the vacated medical space into office space and gym toilets. DLR Group would also build a 300-bed men’s community work center on the current penitentiary campus, where the current recreeation/visiting building, root cellar, and maintenance building stand.

DLR Group recommends a 100-bed women’s community work centers in Sioux Falls and in Rapid City, both with potential to expand to 200 beds. These facilities would ease the crowding at the Pierre women’s prison and give inmates “greater opportunity to participate in more community related work activities” and help the women maintain connection with families and employers in those parts of the state. DLR Group recommends demolishing the old Pierre community work center and repurposing Unit E as a women’s community work center for 60 inmates after transferring women to the proposed Sioux Falls and Rapid City CWCs. Pierre would also get a new 250-bed minimum security prison building for women.

Yankton would get a new 200-bed men’s community work center or remodel of the existing CWC on the Human Services Center property.

Even though DLR Group acknowledges that staffing shortages at the Mike Durfee Prison in Springfield are exacerbated by its remote location, DLR Group does not recommend shutting that site down and transferring prisoners to more easily staffed sites in Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Instead, the consultants recommend a new 300-bed men’s housing unit at Springfield to replace the aging college dormitories that are currently housing inmates. DLR Group notes the dorms weren’t designed for prisoners. Those repurposed cells apparently still have the old dorm doors, which require guards patrolling the halls to open doors to check on prisoners, a significant safety hazard.

These projects and others recommended by DLR Group total $608,202,707. 56% of that cost would be the new thousand-plus-bed prison in Sioux Falls. The next most expensive items would be the 300-bed Springfield addition, the 250-bed Pierre addition, and the 200-bed men’s low-medium security unit in Rapid City, each costing over $40 million.

DLR Group, budget/issues matrix for DOC building projects, 2022.01.12, p. 48.
DLR Group, budget/issues matrix for DOC building projects, 2022.01.12, p. 48.

Most of the construction could take place without disrupting current Corrections operations. DLR Group says the new Sioux Falls penitentiary and the new prison house at Springfield could be finished by April 2027. The new community work centers for women in Sioux Falls and Rapid City and for men in Yankton could be open by November 2025.


  1. grudznick 2022-02-21 10:52

    Mr. H, you seem to have less than your usual NDS driven criticality on this issue. grudznick is considering agreeing with you on this but I must think more. That seems too much money when they could just pack more criminals into the same spaces or even put up some army tents inside a big fence.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-02-21 11:33

    A state-ordered lethal injection isn’t criminal justice; it’s suicide by cop and it’s the view of this progressive that anyone convicted of any felony requiring incarceration should be able to ask for a death with dignity rather than living a life of Hell in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

  3. jerry 2022-02-21 11:50

    Scull, Dream Designs, Lloyds will be rewarded handsomely with taxpayer handouts. We live on the government teat.

    Just a shot in the dark here, but if the state released drug offenders, that just might free up some room.

  4. John 2022-02-21 11:55

    “Consultants” are a racket. Do they, would they ever boldly recommend to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs, thus reducing incarceration and crime, including property crime. Portugal did years ago. Do the consultants ever recommend following the humane and less imprisoning practices of, say, Norway? Of course not. Would the consultants ever recommend a process to release most non-violent prisoners? Of course not. The US has the highest incarceration population and per capita rate in the world – higher than China, Russia, etc. Land of the free.

    Build it and the prosecutorial-policing-judicial prison industrial complex will fill it. And if times are good and the local fill rate is slow, we can whore it out to the federal prison system, holding inmates, temporarily and a premium price. What a racket.

    “Every prison that is built, every jail constructed, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — apologies to Dwight D Eisenhower

  5. Porter Lansing 2022-02-21 12:16

    I love new things, harbor no “negativity bias”, and believe you need to spend money to make money.
    I and those with these baseline attributes have happily moved away from the state that nurtures the opposites.

  6. grudznick 2022-02-21 13:03

    Consultants are indeed a racket. A lucrative racket.

  7. scott 2022-02-21 13:17

    We need to look at and understand why we have such a high incareration rate in SD. Is it SD has tougher laws, or are there other underlying reasons? For example, does the fact that so many kinds have both their parent work to make a living impact kids such that the kids are more likely to be in trouble.

    Then SD needs to understand that there are other ways to punish people, besides jails. People who are a danger to society obviously need to be in jails. However, putting people in jail to punish them has to be rethought.

    There are many other ways to punish people, that do not involve jail. Once someone goes to jail, that creates a stigma that most will never overcome, and that person will be a burden on society for life.

    If you can keep a person out of jail, that person can keep a job and help society. They have a chance to pay child support, make restitution, have health insurance, pay taxes, etc….

  8. Nick Nemec 2022-02-21 13:21

    Meanwhile South Dakota couldn’t find a few thousand to fund an investigator to look into missing Native women. I predict if this plan is adopted it will end up costing $1000M ($1B).

  9. ABC 2022-02-21 13:59

    It is a Governor-Legislative-prison-industrial complex, built and getting bigger since 1979. In a one party system such as is here, the laws signed by Governor Zero fill the prisons.

    The fill jail rate is much lower in Ninnesota and North Dakota. Maybe after prison and probation is served, we can encourage them to live there, less of a chance for them to spend time in prison for non violent offenses.

    An angry not very intelligent one party system will always be looking for welfare to build more prisons. They will take Joe Biden’s money, build more prisons, criticize Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi who gave them the money, and take away the people’s right to pass laws with Amendment C.

    It’s time to replace them all.

    Bipartisanship is a cowards way. There should be a people’s coalition of Greens , Libertarians, Democrats, Progressives having a Permanent Majority for the years 2023-2073.

    We can do that, if candidates talk about it and run on it.

  10. 96Tears 2022-02-21 14:02

    I hope those looking at this proposal are smarter than their predecessors from the last 30 years. I wouldn’t bet on it.

    South Dakota’s incompetence with its state penal system is the result of when strong-man governors hire reasonable wardens and assistant wardens to run an impossible system set up to fail from a lack of foresight, money and training. This is a history of stupidity not only with the executive branch of state government, but also sloganeering legislators whose first political instinct is to say they’re “tough on crime.” Politicians in both parties are guilty of this foolish recklessness generating bad policies.

    It’s a history of legislation for creating new felonies, mandatory sentencing, longer sentences with fewer options for parole and diddling with the justice system. It’s a product of cowardice by judges and prosecutors who won’t speak up and tell governors and legislators they are wrong, and a public educated by cop shows and fear talk so they don’t realize that when kids and adults are sent up the river, they will eventually return after having been trained by hardened cons behind bars.

    Examples. Bill Janklow circumvented the commutation process to return a favor to Rocky Blair, a violent criminal who snitched on ring leaders from a state prison riot. Blair soon afterward kidnapped, raped and murdered a McKennan Hospital nurse. Lawsuits revealed sloppy management all around Blair.

    Governor George S. Mickelson inherited a prison system totally out of control from incompetent management from top to bottom. Violent inmate John Miller was rumored to have three hacksaw blades and a gun in his penitentiary cell. Was there a shakedown to search cells? Hell no, there hadn’t been such a search in the pen for many years, even after the riot of the early 80s. Seven prison officials were indicted after investigators, three years afterward, learned that a hush-hush deal was cut to swap the blades and gun for marijuana. Things were so very messed up that records on inmates were lost or mishandled, resulting in John Miller being released 28 months too soon. He promptly left for Ohio where he went on a crime spree, including rape and kidnapping. Another inmate was paroled five years too soon. Mickelson declared the mess at the penitentiary as a crisis that could very well bankrupt the state. A month after Mickelson’s death, another riot and fire broke out. Walt Miller tried and failed to find competent staff to bring the prison under control, but even then, there still had not been one shakedown search of the pen.

    Janklow re-entered office in January 1995 and twisted arms to get money to destroy the state’s then-competent juvenile justice system so he could shove kids to fill his perverted idea of a boot camp in Plankinton. His bright idea killed a church choir girl Gena Score because Bill felt strongly that misbehaving children needed to be manhandled and abused to straighten them back out. Gena was a candidate for the ChINS (Children in Need of Supervision) program, not a prison for children. But Janklow needed a body count of children to justify his expense for a boot camp. (It worked so well for him when he was a teen and given the choice between jail and the Marines.) Reform efforts by Democrats after Gena was killed were batted down by Republicans in the legislature. They were just following orders.

    The root problem here is the attitude of not admitting that dumb, failed ideas of the past were ever wrong. Violent people should be institutionalized until there is significant evidence they are no longer a threat. People who commit nonviolent crimes are taking up space needed for truly dangerous criminals. The tough-on-crime political bumper sticker way of thinking and phrases like “stack ‘em up like cordwood” should tell voters all they need to know about a self-serving, reckless politician. Voters need to make smarter, better informed choices. Blunders are expensive in terms of money and lives.

  11. Francis Schaffer 2022-02-21 16:48

    Ok what are other options? Do the other options cost more or less? This doesn’t include the annual DOC budget of over $120 million: expense. I never look at DOC dollars as an investment. Options Medicaid expansion to relieve financial stress on those eligible and provide primary health coverage for others. Universal Basic Income for South Dakota residents. I have no idea the investment this would be, yet we know what we have is not improving quality of life nor reducing DOC budget so they need to be investigated as options to business as usual. An added note, the #1 predictor of substance addiction is maternal stress. Including in utero stress causing high cortisol levels for the developing fetus. Heartbreaking these are topics aren’t discussed more in this professed Right to Life society.

  12. Donald Pay 2022-02-21 17:14

    Yeah, I largely agree with John’s statement on “consultants.” Not all are bad, but most. And Scott’s comments on alternatives to incarceration are the ideas that never get fully implemented. The reason, I think, is there is a huge lobby in Pierre for pouring money into infrastructure. Construction and materials industries, of course, can be counted on. The Chambers will be all in favor. It won’t, of course, matter one wit that local neighborhoods might be vehemently opposed, if they were even notified. What’s the lobby for alternatives to prisons? The taxpayers. Ha. Taxpayers don’t matter if the business interests aren’t lined up with them.

    Look, we need prisons for the dangerous people out there, and for those repeat offenders who just can’t reform themselves. But, give people skills, help them get off drugs, if that;s their problem, and forget the piddle drug offences, and you solve the space problem.

    Want to deal with the future prisoners? You can put money into better education today to solve that problem tomorrow.

  13. Eve Fisher 2022-02-21 17:51

    Despite our small population, we have more people incarcerated than any of our neighbors, including Minnesota.

    48% are in SD prisons for violent crimes 30% for drug-related crimes, 22% for non-violent crimes. Yes, we can cut the prison population significantly by legalizing pot and getting people treatment for the hard stuff rather than incarceration. Also, while there’s no breakdown, a significant number of inmates are mentally ill and/or mentally disabled. The first group gets minimal medication for their mental illness, and the second group – you can’t fix or cure mental disabilities, and it’s the equivalent of locking up a child.

    Some reasons for the high incarceration rate:
    (1) South Dakota is “tough on crime”, with some unique laws that are draconian. For example, South Dakota is the only state in the country where the ingestion of a controlled substance is a felony crime – i.e., nothing in the car, in their hand, just the suspicion on the officer’s part that the person has taken some drug of some kind. This has led to forced catheterizations of men and women to “check for drug use”. (And also to a court-ordered massive settlement by the State of South Dakota for this invasive procedure.)
    (2) South Dakota and Oklahoma are the only two states where you can get life without parole for manslaughter.
    (3) South Dakota and Maine are the only two states where all life sentences are life without parole.

    The Hill in Sioux Falls (the old penitentiary) is falling apart and has been condemned for decades. It definitely needs to be replaced. If you have never visited it, and can pass a background check, it would be very informative to do a tour of the pen to see what bad shape the building is actually in.

  14. Mark Anderson 2022-02-21 18:19

    Well boys, the state penn in Sioux Falls would make a great school. Just do the opposite of Springfield. Even though it’s now named after a great Highmore person, Mike Durfee. I know people who went to school there. Who wants to admit that? Names would be great. College on the Cliff. Although no college wants to be a college anymore. University over Sioux Falls would be a good one. The classrooms would be tiny for close in person education. They would make great dorm rooms at least. Come on. Just move the prison up the road between Renner and Crooks near the interstate for easy transport.
    At the very least if they can turn an old bank into a hotel in downtown Sioux Falls, what a hotel it would make. Call it the Locked Inn. Charge more for the violent offenders rooms. It’s a start.
    It would make a great artist retreat, all that stone to carve. Just move the artist retreat from near Baltic to the prison. All kinds of ideas, just think that all the Biden bucks can do for the state.

  15. Tom 2022-02-21 19:11

    or just bring back the chair and select by lottery…start with all registered GQP insurrectionist supporters…state back to normal in no time at all…free-dumb for all at low cost….’cause electricity is penny cheap from NSP to youuuuuuu!

  16. 96Tears 2022-02-21 19:21

    Gol-dang-it Mark! Let’s talk about a single university system and nixing NSU, DSU and BHSU. Shut down the School of Mines because we shut down the gold mines. Transform the Vermillion campus into half penal system and half artists community, and consolidate the USD curriculum in Sioux Falls where the med school is located. Let Brookings (land grant college) continue its aggie and engineering mission. Kill the fiefdumbs (pun intended) and put the money into a truly great university system instead of the current status of mediocrity.

    Git ‘er done! And then let’s change the tax system to give the breaks to the middle class and force the richees to pay their fair share.

  17. larry kurtz 2022-02-21 19:25

    Well, that’s a concept. If you can enter a drawing to implode an historic building at Sanator maybe the state could sell raffle tickets to fry a convict in an electric chair?

  18. Porter Lansing 2022-02-21 19:54

    The majority race in South Dakota overall is white at 83.6% of residents.
    The next most-common racial group is indigenous Indian.
    South Dakota’s Indian people constitute 9% of state residents, but 41% of people in jail and 33% of people in prison.
    Why do you believe this is happening?
    I lived on the Rez in Eagle Butte and Faith so don’t try and feed me the “they commit more crime” hot dish.
    I know from experience that Indians don’t commit more crime than your white people, whose majority live within fifty miles of the Minnesota border.
    Like Black people in the American South, Indians are profiled, to fill your prisons, by white supremacist cops and judges.

  19. grudznick 2022-02-21 20:16

    How goes it in Rapid City, Mr. Lansing, where out-of-state fat white men are targeted, or in Colorado?

  20. jerry 2022-02-21 22:04

    Put that new prison in Pierre. There is no need for a new one in Sioux Falls or in Rapid City. Put that bad boy right there where the “laws” are made. Give the local contractors the juice to build it, why give all that loot to Scull, Dream Design or Lloyd.

  21. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-21 22:33

    Mr. Nemec is correct and the tragedy is it will be good money after bad. Just new walls to put our problems behind, with no rehabilitation, mental health, education or rehabilitation. We build new buildings and think “problem solved” and do very little to effect the prisoners chances to stay out once their sentence has expired. 99.8 % of people in prison are getting out, most sooner rather than later. One difficult challenge is finding methods to motivate persons in prison to participate in the programs available and to use prison time to gather the tools to live sober and productively. There is nothing simple about corrections reform.

  22. sx123 2022-02-22 00:53

    Let’s throw everyone in jail and be done with it.

  23. Dicta 2022-02-22 10:22

    On one hand, I hate spending more money on facilities that incarcerates people at alarming rates. On the other hand, I support making living conditions better for inmates, as studies have supported it improving safety, inmate mental health, etc. At some point, we need to have a reckoning about our CJUS system and the booming business it has become.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.