SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Republican South Dakota state Reps. Kevin Jensen, Karla Lems and Aaron Aylward have concerns about the planned location of a new men’s prison between Harrisburg and Canton.
“The location, I’m afraid, is going to create a two- to three-mile radius around that spot, which is prime development land over the next 30 to 50 years for Harrisburg, Worthing or Canton to move,” Jensen said. “Now we’re going to create a hole there that nobody’s going to want to build near.”
“We really need to slow down I believe and take a deep breath and really look at, is this the site that we want for the next 140 years for this facility to be at, does this make sense,” Lems said.
Both Lems and Jensen live in the Canton area; they and Aylward say the reaction they’ve heard from people who live near the proposed site is universally negative. As Lems points out, the current penitentiary dates back to 1881. She says a better location for the new men’s prison would be at an industrial site.
“To me, that would make way more sense,” Lems said. “It’s somewhere that you’re probably not going to have people choosing to have a home by anyway.”
“I would think we would get a little less resistance if we could be along the interstate someplace,” Jensen said.
Aylward’s district is close to the planned site; he lives in Harrisburg. He wants more time.
“I do think another facility is needed,” Aylward said. “Where that right spot is, I’m not sure yet. But I just think it needs to be given more time. Some things need to be looked at a little bit more carefully. This isn’t the spot for it.”
Aylward shares an argument he’s heard and how he reacts to it.
“But somebody’s got to have the jail by them, and I get their line of thinking,” he said. “But if that’s the case, let’s take a little more time. Let’s find a better spot for it.”
In a statement released on Oct. 6, South Dakota Department of Corrections Secretary Kellie Wasko said that the location “is the best choice for a modern correctional facility that supports our state’s public safety needs, minimizes the impact on community growth, and keeps us close to the available workforce.” A Department of Corrections spokesperson estimated that prison construction will finish in 2028.