COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers: Nearly two-thirds of SD prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than 84,000 South Dakotans have now tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

To put that into perspective, that’s one in ten people who live in the state.

If you think that number is high, seven out of ten South Dakota inmates has had the virus, equaling nearly 2,300 people.

In this edition of “COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers,” we’re taking a look at how South Dakota’s prison outbreaks compare with neighboring states and which South Dakota facilities have been hardest hit.

From the state penitentiary in Sioux falls to Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, COVID-19 has hit every prison in South Dakota.


All together, 69-percent of South Dakota prisoners have tested positive. While thousands have recovered, four inmates have died.

The odds of a prisoner contracting COVID-19 is significantly higher than in other neighboring states.
Nearly half of Iowa prisoners have tested positive, along with about one in three in Minnesota.
28-percent of North Dakota prisoners have tested positive, along with 12-percent in Nebraska.

Some South Dakota facilities are seeing more cases than others.

For instance 84-percent of prisoners at the state penitentiary have tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 36-percent in the nearby Jameson Annex.

The Rapid City Community Work Center has been hardest hit. 92-percent of inmates have had the virus. At Mike Durfee State Prison, which is the largest facility in the state, 80-percent of inmates have tested positive for Coronavirus. That’s more than a thousand people.

170 Department of Corrections employees have also tested positive for the virus. According to the SD Department of Corrections website, all but 12 employees have recovered and no DOC workers have died from the virus.

We wanted to find out if South Dakota prison employees saw as high of a rate of positive tests as inmates. We reached out to the DOC and asked about the total number of employees. We also asked how many inmates have been hospitalized with the virus, and we requested an interview. A spokesperson with the DOC responded to those questions saying, “we cannot discuss security matters.”


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KELOLAND News is covering the Coronavirus outbreak. We have created a guide to everything you need to know to prepare. We also have the latest stories from across the globe feeding into this page.