Reasons for the firing of top officials not released; DOC to undergo full review

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The shakeup of leadership at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, and the head of DOC being put on administrative leave are just the start of changes in South Dakota’s Correctional System.

After receiving an anonymous complaint that includes allegations of sexual harassment, nepotism, poor pay, and bad equipment, Governor Krisit Noem says a preliminary report led her to take action to fire Warden Darin Young and Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske. Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and Director of Pheasantland Industries in the prison, Stefany Bawek, remain on administrative leave.

Today Governor Noem met with DOC employees at the prison in Sioux Falls before meeting with reporters.

KELOLAND Investigates has been exposing issues in our state prisons since 2016.

Now change is on the way.

A correctional officer only stays on the job at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls for an average of three years. High turnover, combined with dangerous working conditions, low pay and poor morale have been common complaints. Governor Noem says, based on an anonymous complaint to her office, followed by a preliminary report that it was time to take action.

Kennecke: Can you share specific misconduct that led to the firing of (Warden) Young and (Deputy Warden) Dreiske?
Gov. Noem: I can’t. I will tell you when I got the email, I took it extremely seriously and started the investigation right away. And when I received the preliminary report on that investigation about ten days ago, we immediately took action.

Employees at the State Prison who met with Gov. Noem tell KELOLAND News that they asked her for better pay, more training and safer working conditions.

Kennecke: Are you conducting internal investigation reviews on all of the prison facilities, all of the DOC facilities, or just this one?
Gov. Noem: Yes, all of them. And we have had a salary proposal review ongoing for many, many months already.

Gov. Noem says some of this year’s budget surplus of $85 million could be used for safety gear, training and bonuses, but salary hikes require a long-term fix. Noem says she told employees that the firing of Young and Dreiske may be just the start.

Gov. Noem: I was very clear in the other room that everybody is being evaluated, every single person and especially those in leadership.
Kennecke: And just here at this facility, or throughout…
Gov. Noem: Throughout the Department of Corrections.

The State expects to begin looking at a proposal for a full review of the Department of Corrections, next week.

“Now that we have this many different complaints that have been brought to my attention, we are looking at evaluating every single policy in DOC to make sure we are doing a good job at training people, equipping them and putting them in safe positions that allow them to be successful in their jobs.”

SD Governor Kristi Noem

Kennecke: How much of this report will you make public, once it’s done?
Gov. Noem: Well we’re going to look at what’s in there. I hope everybody remembers that this is personnel policy. So it’s very different when you’re dealing with employees and there are legal requirements to releasing these types of investigations, but certainly, if it’s appropriate we will be.

Gov. Noem says replacing aging prisons with new ones would solve some of the issues, but that type of overhaul would require millions of dollars and legislative approval.

Gov. Noem says she is hoping that the change in leadership will make DOC employees feel comfortable in coming forward to go on record about what has gone wrong and what needs to be changed.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Continuing The Conversation
See Full Weather Forecast

Trending Stories

Don't Miss!

More Don't Miss