SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Back in 2016, the turnover rate for South Dakota Department of Corrections Officers at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls was about 34%, according to a KELOLAND News story by Angela Kennecke.

The statewide turnover rate was 28% (27.9%) for fiscal year 2020, said Michael Winder of the S.D. DOC.

As of June 30, the state DOC had 519 security personnel at the three DOC complexes. There were 178.5 at the sites in Springfield and Yankton as well as the Rapid City Community Work Centers, Winder said in an email to KELOLAND News. There were 273.5 security personnel at the prison, Jameson Annex and community work center in Sioux Falls. Another 67 were at all the units in Pierre.

There are 31.5 non-security staff at Springfield, Yankton and Rapid City. There are 53.5 non-security staff in Sioux Falls. Pierre had eight non-security staff.

Winder said the staff numbers do not include DOC Administration, inmate services, parole or juvenile corrections.

Low pay and concerns about overall working conditions were cited in any anonymous complaint reviewed by the state.

Gov. Kristi Noem terminated State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young and Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske on Thursday. Director of Pheasantland Industries Stefany Bawek has been placed on administrative leave. That follows a Tuesday, July 14, announcement about Noem placing Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and Young on administrative leave.

Today’s announcement from Noem said an investigation was on-going.

The average pay for a corrections officer is $19.55, which based on salaries listed by four neighboring state DOC websites and industry reports, is lower than the average pay of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Winder said the state offers a $1,500 retention bonus for successful candidates who maintain two years of continuous employment. Officers also receive a 2.5% increase at the one-year anniversary and at the two year anniversary, he said.

The anonymous complaint also cited sexual harassment and promotions given to favored individuals rather than the most qualified ones.

The DOC has a structure for staff grievances. Policy 1.1C.4 says, “Department of Corrections staff members will have available to them, a just and equitable method for resolution of grievances. There will be no discrimination, coercion, restraint, reprisal or retaliation against any staff member who submits a grievance in accordance with established policy and procedure.”

The first step in filing a grievance is to inform the immediate supervisor, according to DOC policy. If the employee is not satisfied with the result of the first step, the employee can take a second step. Additional steps follow through to a fifth step.

The second step would be to file to the warden or director. A third step is to appeal to the Secretary of Corrections. A fourth step is to appeal to the Civil Service Commission. A fifth step is to appeal to circuit court.