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Current, Former?State Pen Workers Say Problems?Listed In Complaint Aren’t New?

South Dakota Department of Corrections
Inside the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.


The anonymous complaint about conditions at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls isn’t surprising, according to six current and former prison workers.  


Gov. Kristi Noem released the complaint last week and announced a third-party investigation into the matter. She also fired the warden and deputy warden while placing the Secretary of Corrections and head of the prisoner work program on leave.  


SDPB confirmed the identities of the sources it interviewed but agreed to shield the names of those who feared retaliation at their workplace.  


“Nothing’s changed,” former corrections officer Darren said after reading the complaint. “I’m still friends with a lot of the officers that still work there, that continue to work there. And looking at their posts on social media, something needs to change. And?I’ll be upfront and honest, something needs to change because there’s only a matter of time before another RJ incident happens.”? 


“RJ”?was?former prison?guard?Ronald Johnson. Two prisoners murdered him?during a?2011?escape attempt.?? 


Former workers say?better?safety conditions and?decision-making could have prevented that?killing.?They say changes were made but?they weren’t?enough.?? 


Sources say the prison needs to be more careful with contraband and housing assignments. They also want to see more staff and better equipment.?? 


A current prison worker?said he’s complained multiple times about a lack of safety vests and gun holsters.?He?says a?supervisor?told him to use?a left-handed?holster?even though he’s?right-handed.?? 


“Honestly when you’re handling a firearm that’s not OK, that can be extremely dangerous,” he said.  


The former workers say concerns?about pay, nepotism and leadership failing to address problems?are also longstanding.??