When she purged prison leadership last summer, Governor Kristi Noem said she’d fix the problems in South Dakota’s prison system, including the poor working conditions and resulting staff shortage. How’s she coming on that promise?
Last September, there was a 25% vacancy rate for Correctional Officers at the Penitentiary, according to a report from a consulting firm hired by the Department of Corrections, CGL. The vacancy rate now is 46%, according to correctional officers.
…We reached out to Governor Noem’s office for an interview or statement and did not receive a response.
The Department of Corrections media representative did reply saying:
Our current, annualized vacancy rate for all positions in the DOC is 31.5% [Beth Warden, “Staffing Crisis Cancels Showers, Activities at South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls,” KSFY, 2022.04.27].
What, Kristi isn’t recruiting new prison guards in all of her trips to Texas and California?
Warden reports the state penitentiary was so short on staff last week they had to cancel showers and a long-scheduled pow-wow.
But Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) has a brilliant idea: farm out inmates to Aberdeen and other locations around the state:
Representative Al Novstrup of Aberdeen believes a solution could be combining county and state resources with shared office and cell space and “representatives of counties representatives of state saying what’s the best way to get the job done at the lowest price,” said Novstrup. In Aberdeen, a concrete-walled building is available that Novstrup believes could be a good location [Warden, 2022.04.27].
What, Al, is David not turning a profit at Allevity, so you need another state subsidy to support your business?
But sure, let’s spread penitentiary inmates out to Aberdeen, Watertown, and other towns with county jails, because they have lots of extra cells and staff because we all know that when you’re short on staff, the best way to make operations more efficient is to spread operations out across more facilities that require more staff and more funding than one centralized facility. Novstrup himself recognized in 2019 that counties are so short on cash for jails and other facilities that they might need a new tax to cover costs for regular operations. Now he proposes dumping penitentiary inmates on Aberdeen and other local correctional operations.
You tell me what’s worse: Al’s really dumb solution, or Kristi’s complete lack of solutions?
I’m sure there’s plenty of room for inmates at Thinder Road now that Dave & Buster’s is open.
Al is forgetting that the locals will prioritize filling their unused beds with federal inmates whenever possible since that provides a consistent, higher funding stream than incarcerating local or state inmates.