Skip to Content
South Dakota:
Under God, the People Rule

Modernizing South Dakota's Correctional System

Safe, secure prisons are a necessary function of government. They’re not an exciting topic, but a functional, effective corrections system is necessary to keep our state safe.

In 2021, we reviewed our state corrections system to make a plan for what we need to do to improve it. That review turned up quite a few suggestions. Our women’s prison in Pierre is horrendously overcrowded. Meanwhile, our men’s penitentiary in Sioux Falls was built in the days of the Dakota Territory, and many of our other campuses need security and operational upgrades. In total, South Dakota needs to be planning for up to $600 million in facility upgrades in the coming years. I have already started to put money into reserves to help pay for these upgrades and have begun planning for a women’s work center in Rapid City.

We must also support our hard-working correctional officers and staff. It is incredibly difficult to fill open roles at our corrections facilities and retain current staff, so I announced an 11.7% targeted pay increase for correctional staff. We are also hiring an inspector general who reports directly to the secretary of corrections to address internal issues identified by our employees, as well as a director of prisons to help empower supervisors. We are getting these workers the right equipment and training to make sure they have the tools to do their jobs safely.

Finally, we need to prepare inmates for when they eventually return to society. Rehabilitation is unique to each offender and can involve counseling, drug rehabilitation, education, workforce training, or other needs. While upgrading our correctional facilities, we will modernize our programming to ensure prisoners can become productive members of society after they have served their sentences.

This year, nine women will graduate from a precision machining program through DOC’s Women’s Center of Opportunity with Lake Area Technical College. We need to create more opportunities like this for offenders to build skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. The upgrades we make over the next several years will include more opportunities like this one to help these inmates land on their feet.

Modernizing our correctional system will not be easy or quick. But this is one challenge I am taking on for the benefit of the next generation of South Dakotans.