Walworth County shuts down jail following lawsuit, KELOLAND News investigation


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Just one week after KELOLAND Investigates brought you the video evidence that Walworth County Commissioners had been warned about the unfit conditions in the jail for years, the commission voted to shut the jail down.

Tuesday morning Walworth County Commission voted to close the jail, “effective immediately” and to place inmates currently in the jail in other facilities within the next 30 days. The county expects just a handful of prisoners to remain in the facility over the next month. The commission voted to sign contracts with Faulk, Roberts and Codington Counties to house its inmates.

As KELOLAND Investigates reported, a federal class action lawsuit called for the jail to be closed. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of current and future inmates and accused county commissioners and others of violating their constitutional rights by keeping it open.

According to the federal class action lawsuit, county officials had been warned by their own experts that the jail is “outdated, grossly inadequate, and dangerous.”

While the lawsuit was filed a month ago, the commission did not consider closing the jail until our KELOLAND News investigation revealed that commissioners had been told by a National Institute of Corrections jail consultant in 2017, that the conditions at the jail were “shocking.” The jail was also deemed as a fire hazard.

The federal class action suit was not seeking monetary damages, rather closure of the facility.

According to the Walworth County State’s Attorney, Jamie Hare, the county lost its contract to hold inmates for the U.S. Marshall’s service this summer. Hare tells KELOLAND Investigates that Walworth County has agreements to potentially house inmates from 15 other counties in both South and North Dakota. Hare says they are providing notice to those counties that they will no longer be able to take prisoners.

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