PREVIEW: Growing treatment gap in the women’s prison


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — We know the majority of women who are in prison are serving a sentence for drugs.

Yet, there are fewer counselors than ever in the Women’s Prison in Pierre to help treat those struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorder. KELOLAND Investigates has been exposing problems in our prisons since 2016 and joins us now with the latest look into the growing treatment gap in the Women’s Prison.

In our KELOLAND News investigation, Jessica’s Journey to Prison, we began our look into the lack of treatment in prison, where a majority of inmates, like Jessica Pfau, suffer from addiction. As we’ve reported, despite her overdose and long history of drug abuse, Pfau was told she was not a candidate for treatment behind bars, but can go to AA and NA meetings.

In that report at the end of last year, there were two vacant positions in the prison for addiction counselors and three counselors working in the prison. Now there is only one licensed addiction counselor left. However, there are four trainees on the job.

We’ve also learned that the Women’s Prison is low on mental health counselors.

“The girls weren’t getting the mental health treatment that they needed. We were down to two mental health therapists. Basically they would see the girls for 15 minutes and then hand them a packet to complete,” Former Women’s Prison Employee, June Russell said.

The Department of Social Services, which runs treatment programs in prison confirms that two mental health counselors are leaving this month.

Coming tonight on KELOLAND News @ 10, we hear from former support staff and a former licensed addiction counselor at the Women’s Prison for more than a decade. They came forward because they say the treatment program at the Women’s Prison was once well-run and effective with many more licensed counselors on staff.

One of them left out of frustration. She asked not to be identified.

“Things did change. The amount of groups run in meth united depreciated. Counselors started leaving; staff was let go,” a former Licensed Addiction Counselor in Women’s Prison said.

You won’t want to miss this KELOLAND News Investigation into the “Growing Treatment Gap in the Women’s Prison” tonight at 10.

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