Appropriators defer action on funding to build a new South Dakota men’s prison

February 22, 2024

PIERRE, S.D.–The state of South Dakota wants to build a new men’s prison. Lincoln County landowners near the proposed prison want a pause in the project, and lawmakers want to know why the proposed prison costs substantially more than a new Nebraska prison of similar size.

Prison opponents also want to see the state utilize programs that focus more on chemical dependency rehabilitation and job skills instead of incarceration.

Those were the takeaways from Wednesday’s Joint Appropriations Committee’s hearing on Senate Bill 49.

The bill would transfer over a quarter of a billion dollars from the state general fund and budget reserves and an additional $10 million in federal funds into the state’s incarceration fund.

State correction officials say the men’s prison will cost around $567 million compared to an estimated $350 million cost for a new prison in Nebraska.

Department of Corrections Seretary Kellie Wasko told legislators that the Nebraska prison has a far different configuration than the proposed South Dakota facility.

She also said that Nebraska can source everything they need to build the facility within 50 miles and that is not the case for the proposed Lincoln County site.

Former Republican Speaker of the House Steve Haugaard testified against the bill. Haugaard, said the state needs to look at how Scandinavian countries put more emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration into society than South Dakota.

The committee deferred action on the bill.

However, the committee did pass Senate Bill 50, a companion bill for funding the new women’s prison in Rapid City.