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Officials break ground on new Rapid City women's prison

The groundbreaking at the new prison site in Rapid City
C.J. Keene
The groundbreaking at the new prison site in Rapid City

Ground has been broken on the new women’s prison in Rapid City. Now that soil tests are under way, it’s time to take a hard look at the facility’s practical uses.

The medium-security facility will be just off the interstate in what is now an open field off North Creek Drive in Rapid City.

For Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller, the 288 extra beds and services are a welcome addition.

"For the last several months we’ve been at or over capacity in the women’s prison out in the central part of the state, so it’ll be a big deal to add some capacity and also add some treatment and rehabilitative pieces to this puzzle, and that’s going to be key to changing people’s trajectory in life," Mueller said. "Our hope is when they get through this process, they’re not coming back through the county jail.”

The facility will have a double wall, razor wire, and will continuously be patrolled. Secretary of Corrections Kellie Wasko explained this choice of location.

“When you’re identifying locations for correctional facilities you look at a lot of things including the surrounding areas, what is the infrastructure, how much land is available so that we can accomplish the physical plant construction that’s going to meet our needs,” Wasko said.

The 2022 state legislature approved $3.8 million in state funding to purchase this 20-acre plot of land. However, a portion of the taxpayer-funded plot has been deemed unsafe to build on.

“I believe it’s the far west corner of the property that is runoff and it is unbuildable – we are unable to build on it," Wasko said. "It’s just going to remain on that side of the operation with nothing built upon it – no operation to it.”

Soil tests on the plot are now under way, and construction is expected to begin in early 2024.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture