UPDATED with email from Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Swenson:
HARRISBURG, S.D. (KELO) — Barbed wire at the intersection of 477th Avenue and 278th Street in rural Lincoln County is just about the only hint a visitor will find about the state’s plan to put a new men’s prison at this location between Canton and Harrisburg. Nearby, Worthing Mayor Crystal Jacobson says she has not learned many concrete details.
“Honestly, we don’t know a whole lot about the men’s prison,” Jacobson said. “We know where it’s going to be located, and that’s about all the information that we have been given. We, honestly, are learning our information from media sources.”
According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, the estimated end of construction won’t come until 2028. Harrisburg Mayor Derick Wenck says many people aren’t happy with the plan.
“A lot of people in Harrisburg feel that there’s better locations for it along the interstate system or even in an industrial area would be more suitable,” Wenck said.
He’s concerned about available support in the county to respond to issues at the prison like a disturbance, fight, fire or medical episode.
“See, that’s another thing that I talked to some of the landowners about, and on their why, why it shouldn’t be built in Lincoln County,” Wenck said. “And one of the things that I’ve told them is if there’s ever a incident that’d be out there, all’s we have is volunteer fire department here. And the Lincoln County Sheriff’s department is, it’s only five miles away, but it’s still five miles away.”
Jacobson has similar concerns about whether the county has enough support if there’s an emergency at the prison.
“In all honesty, no I don’t think that there is,” she said.
For this report, KELOLAND News reached out to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Steve Swenson said in an email to Dan Santella on Friday that “I haven’t heard from DOC on their plans, I have very little information. I know our commission has requested information from DOC on their plans so we can better understand what they have in the works.”
Additionally, KELOLAND News emailed a Department of Corrections spokesperson about timely emergency response at the planned prison and also asked if fire or law enforcement agencies will have satellite offices at the new prison. If and when we hear back from the DOC, we’ll make sure and update our viewers and readers.