Lynette Johnson on DOC: ‘They need to clean house’

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The widow of a South Dakota correctional officer who was killed by two inmates a decade ago says the Department of Corrections is in need of a complete house-cleaning.

Lynette Johnson, wife of the late Ron “R.J.” Johnson, says she’s encouraged by Governor Kristi Noem’s dismissal of the state penitentiary warden and deputy warden, following complaints of sexual harassment, nepotism, poor pay and bad equipment. Johnson says the changes at the top should be just the beginning.

The passage of time hasn’t lessened Lynette Johnson’s grief ten years after losing her husband Ron “R.J.” Johnson.

“My heart has been broken. It has been broken since the day Ron was murdered, my heart has been broken. There was a little piece put back. There was a little piece put back just knowing this week that oh my gosh! There’s hope for the corrections officers,” Johnson said.

Johnson says this week’s shakeup at the South Dakota Penitentiary in response to complaints about poor working conditions is an encouraging first step toward reforms that are long overdue.

“Hopefully, this chain will be broken and this will become safer, and not just here at the penitentiary in Sioux Falls. I mean, Springfield, everywhere,” Johnson said.

Johnson says she stays in touch with penitentiary employees who tell her safety concerns they raise to administration are often ignored.

“If you complain, or you see something wrong, going wrong, you go to them. Mind your own business. You just do your job, don’t worry about that. That happened with Ron’s case and it happens today,” Johnson says.

Johnson says more people within the Department of Corrections need to be replaced to ensure that correctional officers are treated with respect and can carry-out their duties safely.

“My life ended April 12, 2011. I don’t want that to happen to anybody else,” Johnson said.

Johnson says the DOC also needs to address staff shortages and low pay. She says her husband was earning only 16-dollars an hour after 24 years on the job.

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