‘Everybody is being evaluated,’ Gov. Kristi Noem says regarding investigation into Department of Corrections

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem took questions from reporters after meeting with Department of Corrections employees on Friday. The meeting was held to address concerns by workers that led to the firing of State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young and Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske.

The firings were the result of an internal review conducted by the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources, prompted by an anonymous complaint that includes allegations of sexual harassment, nepotism, poor pay and bad equipment.

The news conference, initially planned to begin at 4 p.m., started at 4:34 p.m. and lasted approximately 28-minutes.

Noem stated multiple times while answering questions that policies throughout the DOC are being evaluated. Beyond that, Noem indicated nobody within the DOC was outside the purview of the review.

Everybody is being evaluated. Every single person.

Gov. Kristi Noem

Among the issues plaguing the department, Noem mentioned insufficient pay, the need for better gear and training, as well as low staffing and the age of the facilities themselves. She said the age of the buildings has prevented the implementation of programs such as skills training and addiction counseling. She added that she would love to see the state legislature give thought to these issues.

In discussing pay increases, Noem said higher salaries would need to be supported by ongoing revenue from the state, and not from the budget surplus, but added that the surplus funding could be used for things such as bonuses and gear purchases.

Higher health care costs as a result of the state’s new four-tier health care plan were also mentioned, to which Noem said that the previous plan was causing a deficit, and that the increased costs of the new plan were accounted for with pay increases for certain employees.

Noem said the workers of the penitentiary were candid in their discussion, and that while they are currently discouraged by the conditions within the DOC, she believes they were encouraged by how quickly she acted on their concerns.

Noem mentioned multiple times during the news conference that she had been unaware of certain complaints and issues within the DOC; she said she has taken immediate action upon hearing of the complaints.

As to whether the full report will be released to the public at the end of the investigation, Noem said she could not offer a guarantee, citing legal issues of confidentiality. Similar legal concerns were cited when asked about the specifics of the accusations made against the DOC.

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