Press "Enter" to skip to content

Lincoln County Penitentiary Opponents Want Info on Other Sites Considered

Lincoln County residents who don’t want the state to build a new penitentiary in their backyard have come with a clever name for the campaign they are organizing: NOPE! Neighbors Opposing Prison Expansion!

NOPE Lincoln—Neighbors Opposing Prison Expansion, FB banner, retrieved 2023.10.25.
Hey! How do we bail out of this prison plan? NOPE Lincoln—Neighbors Opposing Prison Expansion, FB banner, retrieved 2023.10.25.

The name suggests the group is going to take up the banner of reducing South Dakota’s above-average incarceration rates and promoting alternatives to prison. But NOPE board member Jim Eiesland belied the new group’s name last night, telling the Lincoln County Commission they don’t really oppose prison expansion, just prison expansion in their rural neighborhood:

“We aren’t saying that we don’t need a new men’s prison,” he said. “We aren’t saying that a new men’s prison can’t be in Lincoln County. But let’s put it where the industry is supposed to go. Let’s put it in the corridors” [Dan Santella, “NOPE Seeks Communication About Lincoln County Prison,” KELO-TV, 2023.10.24].

NOPE and sympathetic Lincoln County Commissioner Jim Jibben say they want to know what other sites the Department of Corrections considered, apparently so they can make the case that the state should switch to one of those other sites. In an October 12 email posted to NOPE’s FB page by Karissa Vander Waerdt, DOC Secretary Kellie Wasko doesn’t give specifics on other sites but says the proposed site was the best among multiple sites considered near Sioux Falls and is a lot better than the current location:

Corrections Secretary Kellie Wasko, email to Karissa Vander Waerdt, 2023.10.12, posted to NOPE FB 2023.10.12
Corrections Secretary Kellie Wasko, email to Karissa Vander Waerdt, 2023.10.12, posted to NOPE FB 2023.10.12.
Jeff Spyksma posted this list of reasons to oppose this particular pen plan.

  1. Decreased land values. I bought my property two years ago. I’ve spent the last two years building my dream home with my own two hands. Using conservative numbers from relators, I stand to lose $400,000 – $500,000 on my value of my home. In simpler terms. I will owe more than what it’s worth. All of my neighbors have the very same concern.
  2. Increased traffic. We have already noticed an increase in traffic. Vehicles flying down our gravel roads in order to see this proposed site. parents are worried about their kids playing outside. Farmers dealing with “city drivers” while they try to get their crops out. The traffic will do nothing but increase with construction, employees and delivery trucks constantly coming and going.
  3. Economic impact. There are so many studies that show the decline of economic activity after a prison is built in an area. Housing will dwindle but the housing that remains or actually does develop will be low income. The people that live around prisons are generally associated with an inmate. We were informed that a developer which was going to put up (10) million dollar houses south of Harrisburg has now pumped the breaks on that project. They have no intention to build that kind of house in a prison area. The customer base for that caliber of home simple won’t support it. The state claims more jobs… Really? the new facility is supposed to function with half the staff. Current prison staff has priority on these “new” jobs. Studies show that gas stations and other small businesses that try to rely on prisons generally fail within 5 years. Taxes – I’m not a specialist here but I’m guessing Lincoln county receives some taxes from the ag land and or its production. Will they receive taxes from a state facility? The education fund receives a onetime payment from the sale of the land instead of yearly revenue.
  4. Safety. We know that a state-of-the-art facility should be pretty safe, but what about the element the visitors bring to the area. Criminals hang with criminals. Drug users hang with other drug users. Do we really want what’s happing in our larger cities (including Sioux Falls) to be brought to rural lincoln county ?? We have kids, mothers, grandmothers, and daycares all in the immediate vicinity of the proposed site. They fear for their future safety!
  5. Emergency services. Our emergency services are made up of a lot of volunteers. The added duties for these services will overwhelm an already understaffed service. You will lose volunteers !
  6. Lincoln county comprehensive plans. Although I have not personally read ours yet, these plans designate industrial areas for this type of facility. It PROTECTS the ag land and its owners from industrial use.
  7. The simple fact that our elected officials have conducted most of this behind closed doors. Our government is supposed to be transparent. Does it not make you wonder why this was all so hush hush, why gag orders were in pace limiting this getting out?? This is state public land owned by the educational department. The public has a right in the say of how it’s used [Jeff Spyksma, NOPE FB post, 2023.10.12].

I’m not sure how big a house Spyksma built if a prison nearby could drop its value by half a million, but it’s hard to find evidence that correctional facilities have any actual impact on property values. One Dutch master’s thesis suggests that prisons may drop property values within a quarter mile by 3%, which would suggest that Spyksma built a $16-million house out in the middle of a cornfield, which…well, hey, to each his own.

Spyksma’s claim that a developer has backed away from building $10M houses south of Harrisburg sounds fishy. Remember, the new pen would be four miles south of Harrisburg. Take a look at the Sioux Falls map: the existence of the current penitentiary didn’t stop developers from building some of the finest houses in Sioux Falls in the McKennan Park neighborhood, which is less than three miles from the pen. Swing that radius north and east and you can find more contemporary mansions built in Cactus Park within three miles of the pen and the nearby Smithfield slaughterhouse. A developer who says, “Oh no! Penitentiary four miles away! I quit!” is missing an opportunity to snap up lots of open space around Harrisburg where folks could build extravagant houses and never see the new Lincoln County pen.

But a glaring point in Spyksma’s critique is the last one, a concern about transparency that appears to rankle many of the NOPErs. The current Governor won her office on promises of transparency. Lincoln County residents see pretty clearly that the prison site selection process and responses since have been anything but transparent. Opening the site selection process to public input could have averted some of this opposition; instead, the surprise announcement appears to be fueling even more opposition from Lincoln County residents who feel blindsided and betrayed by the administration they twice helped elect.

NOPE and all other interested residents deserve full information on what sites were considered for the new pen and what criteria were used to determine that the current cornfield south of Harrisburg was the optimum location for our inmate population. But once they get that information, if NOPE wants the state to pick a different site for the new penitentiary, they’ll have to make a clear case that the harms they claim come from new prisons really occur. If they can make that case, they’ll then have to make a perhaps harder case that those harms should be imposed on somebody else.


  1. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 08:57

    Another question that will be asked too late, “Who knew of the choice before it was announced? Did they make “big money” on that knowledge?”

    The biggest construction project in Denver in decades was a new international airport. About ten years after construction began it came out that the mayor and his family had purchased farmland surrounding the site and were making bank selling it to car rental agencies, bus parking lots, a huge hotel, etc.

    Someone or some group surely knew of the new prison site before it was announced and leveraged this knowledge to their silent benefit. You’ll see.

  2. grudznick 2023-10-25 09:52

    Mr. P.h, you are not paying attention or ignorant. From whom do you believe the prison land was purchased and by what process do you think the price was set? Did you even read Mr. Spyksma’s whine #3?

  3. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 10:33

    Stay current grudz. Also, it’s understandable why you feel threatened by machine learning. It’s already far beyond your education level and learning daily. Are you?
    It’s the adjacent land that has value, sir. Use your “imaginary” AI to research what title transactions have occurred near the new prison land and then find someone with a simple curiosity to tell you what it means. Not that SD has a history of corruption by government officials, but South Dakota has a history of corruption by government officials.

  4. jerry 2023-10-25 10:41

    If you build it, they will come. Put that bad boy in Pierre. Plenty of room there and you could have all the employment needed.

  5. Eve Fisher 2023-10-25 11:05

    Jerry, there aren’t enough people in Pierre. A prison needs a LOT of workers. Lincoln Co. is close enough to both Sioux Falls and to Iowa to draw workers from both. The land was already owned by a the State. And no matter what NOPE does, the Governor and Ms. Wasko and the Legislature all signed off on this, a long time ago. I agree the transparency is not there. But when is it ever? 90% of the what happens in SD is done behind closed doors.

  6. Jeff Barth 2023-10-25 11:27

    The families of those incarcerated will move to be close to their kin. Perhaps plan a trailer park for them to live in.

  7. O 2023-10-25 11:50

    Aren’t those pretty well reasons there should not be a prison built ANYWHERE? NIMBY only means kicking the can to another, probably less influential site, only to begin the NIMBY complaints all over again.

  8. Ben Cerwinske 2023-10-25 12:38

    I’m probably just a bitter apartment renter, but I struggle finding much sympathy when folks buy property assuming they no longer have to be bothered with the rest of society. I’m sympathetic to the desire for peace and quiet as I’m strongly introverted. I’m not sympathetic to the sense of entitlement these folks have over it. Especially since they’re not too worked up about the sheer amount of people we imprison and how we imprison them. It’s only a problem when it directly affects them.

  9. jerry 2023-10-25 13:24

    @Eve Fisher, when gambling came to South Dakota, the building boom in Pierre took off. Those new homes were for the administrators and all the rest of those who have milked the system to take the money that was supposed to go to schools. So if they would build that prison in the center of the state, where the laws are made, they would again see a huge building boom the likes of never thought of since the building of the great dam there. Talk about economic developement, this would be it. All of those little towns around Pierre would now be able to grow and prosper off the misfortunes of some petty dude who got caught with a left handed smoke.

  10. Marie 2023-10-25 14:33

    Gov. Noem, SD Legislators, and Lincoln County Commissioners have found “The Next Big Thing” for South Dakotans—
    “Build It and They Will Fill It” Prisons and Jails.
    Lincoln County is living the incarceration dream large with a $550M state prison and a $55M justice center in the works–and new jail still to come.
    South Dakota jails and imprisons men and women at the highest rates in the nation and world—largely for non-violent offenses.
    Sadly, the voice for criminal justice reform in South Dakota to reduce costs has left the building with Gov. Daugaard.

  11. grudznick 2023-10-25 16:56

    I’d say to just put the new prison down in Igloo but we bunker holders don’t want it in our back yard either. Prisons gotta go where the bad guys are. That’s the price you pay when you live in the fastest growing county in South Dakota. I still haven’t heard anybody cite a site they think is better. What say all you naysayers…give some serious thought and make a suggestion.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2023-10-25 16:59

    I think Jerry has a good point. Legalized gambling and the ready accessibility of gambling to susceptible populations has probably fueled the explosion in our numbers of incarcerated persons. Another case of “farming the poor”.

  13. grudznick 2023-10-25 17:10

    Mr. jerry. those who toke the Demon Weed must take responsibility for their own actions, no matter where the prisons be. They will probably keep sending the Demon Weed tokers to Springfield, anyway, where it is like a vacation at college.

  14. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 18:18

    grudznick remembers when I came to DFP to beat him in the war to legalize Medical Marijuana. Who won g-dirt?

  15. grudznick 2023-10-25 18:38

    What? Medical Marijuana is legalized? I’m sure all the tokers of the Demon Weed use it for “medicinal purposes,” eh? *wink* *wink*
    Here comes a new prison, to hold a bunch more.

  16. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 19:05

    To REcap: The way to get recreational marijuana legalized is to first have medical marijuana legal in a state for eight to ten years. Recreational marijuana will have been voted down three to five times at that point. By then the timid like grudz will have seen marijuana legalization is not at all what they predicted. The rabid interest in fighting recreational marijuana will have been mitigated and the measure will pass.
    That’s the way it’s happened in nearly every state from Colorado to Washington to California to the East Coast and now to the “belly of the beast”, as it will be done.
    You’re welcome, South Dakota.

  17. Todd Epp 2023-10-25 19:21

    Harrisburg, the Storage Unit Capital of South Dakota, could turn some of those in-city and just outside the city units into prison cells. They’ve already been zoned industrial or commercial. Prisoners could even do the rehabilitation of the units as part of their rehabilitation.

    Everyone wins! Then my fair city could be the correct and correctional capital of South Dakota!

  18. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 19:58

    @BCB – off topic but notable: Your childhood buddy “The Nature Boy” is on AEW Dynamite tonight on TBS. He’s lookin’ pretty good. Slurring his words not as much. And he kept his pants on, so far. “Hide that pony, Ric.” lol

  19. grudznick 2023-10-25 21:17

    Mr. Epp, a straight lawyer from Harrisburg, could be righter than right on this. He is a swell radio guy too.

    Mr. P.h, a fellow I know told me there was an old man wrassling thing on the TV. That must be what you are watching.

  20. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 21:22

    You live in a nursing home, right grudz? 🤔

  21. grudznick 2023-10-25 21:28

    I got out after they rebuilt my house.

  22. P. Aitch 2023-10-25 22:15

    Hill City?

  23. Loti 2023-10-25 23:28

    There will never be a truly ideal place to build a prison. We will always have rich and poor people and families of all ages. I say just build it. We may have to build another, with the Rate we are sticking everybody in prison for everything under the sun.

  24. bearcreekbat 2023-10-26 00:25

    P.Aitch, thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out..

  25. John 2023-10-26 15:36

    Prisons. Jails. Noem’s legacy. Fitting.

    P.’s right. Follow the money on every adjacent land sale near the prison site in Lincoln County and the big land sales around Harrisburg – those will all go to developments supporting the SD policing, prosecutor, prison industrial complex. Prison groupies will flock to Harrisburg.
    Sometimes, too many times, the only thing as bad as SD state government is the SD local media which wastes more time pandering for access and assuaging advertisers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.