Officials explain S.D. Dept. of Corrections pay incentives and consultant contract to legislators

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Temporary pay incentives now being offered in South Dakota’s state prisons will cost an estimated $3.1 million through their scheduled end March 23, 2022, top officials from the Noem administration told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

State Human Resources Commissioner Darin Seeley said a plan to raise salaries is being worked on with Governor Kristi Noem and others for the 2022 legislative session that opens in January. The starting hourly pay for a guard in the Sioux Falls penitentiary is $17.89.

Seeley said the most frequent complaints include pay, hours, harassment and nepotism. The governor took action after receiving an anonymous complaint from a prison employee.

Mike Leidholt retired August 13 as corrections secretary after the governor had put him on leave in July. She fired State Penitentiary warden Darin Young, deputy warden Jennifer Dreiske and Pheasantland Industries director Stefany Bawek.

The appropriations co-chairman, Rep. Chris Karr, said Wednesday pay must be improved. He said it’s hard to take away what’s been given through the incentives. “We know it has to be addressed. It can’t stay where it’s at,” Karr said.

Acting Corrections Secretary Tim Reisch told the committee the $3.1 million for incentives could be covered from the department’s personal services budget.

Reisch said money is available because vacancies have increased. He said the department had 102.5 positions vacant in July, compared to 65 in January. Some $3.4 million is projected to be available.

The $166,410 cost of a state contract for third-party consultant CGL Company will be covered from the department’s contractual services budget, Reisch said.

He said the three short-term incentives began July 24. They include:

Additional pay of $1.50 per hour as a night-shift differential, at an estimated cost of $265,000. That is similar to the night-shift differential paid at the state Human Services Center and the South Dakota Developmental Center at Redfield.

Doubling the shift rate to voluntarily cover open shifts at an estimated cost of $970,000. “We don’t have enough employees to cover all the shifts,” Reisch acknowledged.

Offering a retention bonus totaling $2,500, with quarterly payments of $400 October 1, $500 December 1, $600 February 1 and $1,000 April 1. That will cost an estimated $1.8 million.

Reisch acknowledged “the majority” of vacancies are at the penitentiary, but he declined to provide numbers for security reasons. He said positions shouldn’t be confused with full-time equivalents of 2,080 hours. The department is budgeted for 791.2 FTEs.

Commissioner Seeley said CGL Company was chosen from a group of five proposals. The consulting team will arrive in South Dakota at the end of August and wrap up in December.

Senator Reynold Nesiba asked Secretary Reisch whether the department has adequate resources now. Reisch said it does because there is a growing number of vacancies.

Senator Johnson asked whether CGL’s reports will be public. Commissioner Seeley said “much” of the reports will be, other than individual personnel information.

Karr asked about next steps. Replied Seeley, “We don’t have a proposal yet, because we want the study to get done.”

Seeley said the temporary incentives are “the right thing to do right now.” He said his goal is to be competitive consistently on pay. “That’s the plan I’m on,” he said.

As to the range of complaints, Seeley answered, “It’s a pretty complicated problem.”

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