SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A review KELOLAND News obtained late Tuesday afternoon of the South Dakota Department of Corrections system highlighted several areas that needed improvement but said staff retention was the most critical issue facing the DOC.
The review also supports Gov. Kristi Noem’s proposal to build a 208-bed community work center for female inmates in Rapid City.
KELOLAND investigates obtained a copy of a report looking into the South Dakota Department of Corrections after filing a public records request.
This review was conducted by consultant CGL Companies. It was initiated after an anonymous email was sent in the summer of 2021 to the Governor’s office that listed problems of sexual harassment, favoritism, nepotism, lack of proper safety equipment, low morale, inadequate pay and reduced benefits in the DOC.
The 57-page review was detailed in identifying areas of improvement and recommendations. It was broken into five separate chapters of the background for the review, department organization, facilities, staffing, institutional security and inmate programs and management.
The new women’s community work center will help address overcrowding in the entire women’s prison system, the review said. The women’s prison was “the most crowded female correctional institution the members of the project team have ever reviewed,” the review said.
The women’s prison has an original design capacity of 146 inmates. “At the time of our visit the facility housed 421 female inmates,” the review said.
Overall staff retention is a big problem, according to the review.
“DOC has a 23 percent vacancy rate among correctional officers. The Women’s Prison and State Penitentiary are experiencing the highest levels, with one out of every four positions vacant,” the review said.
The report said the DOC needs to increase the pay for corrections officers, direct wardens to become personally involved in the hiring process as well as establishing other solutions.
The DOC must strengthen its sexual harassment policies and implement options to improve morale and the acceptance of 12-hour shifts, the review said.
“As described, facility decision-making was often left in the hands of the few, establishing the appearance and potential for favoritism throughout the organization and undercutting the responsibilities of line supervisors,” the CGL review said.
The current structure of the DOC needs to be revamped to meet modern needs, according to the report.
In terms of security, the review said it found inconsistences in security inspections of inmates in all facilities. The DOC should “institute the same level of security inspection of all inmates in all facilities.”
Newly hired DOC Secretary Kelly Wasko sent a letter to Sen. Kyle Schoenfish that outlined some of the ways that DOC planned to address issues highlighted in the CFL review.
Some of those initiations are conducting civil treatment to address harassment and hostile work environment concerns, making changes in organizational leadership to empower supervisors and providing full holiday pay for 12-hour shifts.