SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The State of South Dakota is moving forward on building new prison facilities to help with the issue of overcrowding.

In March, Governor Kristi Noem signed two bills that would make this move possible. $60 million will go toward another women’s prison in Rapid City, and $271 million will start the process of replacing the State Penitentiary that houses men in Sioux Falls.

According to the latest data from the South Dakota Department of Corrections, at the end of January this year, the State Penitentiary had an inmate population of 740 men. An outside study done in 2021 found that the recommended occupancy for the State Penitentiary is 426 inmates.

“People are being stacked in cells. People are being caged like animals,” Terry Liggins, the Hurdle Life Coach, said.

Over at the Women’s Prison in Pierre, there were 307 inmates as of January, which is close to reaching its recommended occupancy of 322. The Pierre Minimum Center for women has 180 inmates.

“We had three women to probably an 8×8 area, like little stalls lined up. Three bunks high. I was top bunk so my head touched the ceiling. Three showers for, there was 120 women in the unit that I lived in. So you got three showers on each side, obviously not enough, three toilets. Inside’s the same. You get three bunks high, minimal space for anything. You can’t even sit in your cell if you want to because it’s too small,” Rebecca Shaw, a former inmate, said.

Both Liggins, an advocate for inmates, and Shaw say prison expansion is good, but the State shouldn’t stop there.

“I, myself, don’t have an issue with incarceration. My issue is how we incarcerate and what those facilities look like. Do they have the green spaces that they need, are they given the liberty while they’re incarcerated to practice the life skills that they’re going to need when they get out,” Liggins said.

In Friday’s KELOLAND Investigates, we sit down with Liggins, Shaw and the mother of a current inmate at the state penitentiary to look into the current issues they are seeing within the South Dakota prison walls and how they go beyond just the number of bodies in the cells.

KELOLAND News requested an interview with the Department of Corrections and received an emailed statement back. In regards to overcrowding, the DOC reiterated the newly secured funding for two new prisons. They say those ‘will improve both the success and safety of our prison system.’