Penitentiary staff concerned with policy changes

May 6, 2024

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.–A recent private meeting between state lawmakers and Department of Corrections staff reveals what is essential for those who work in prisons. The top priority had nothing to do with a new structure.

After the March unrest at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, several state lawmakers held private talks with Sioux Falls correctional officers. The top concern — policy changes.
Rep. Kevin Jensen — whose district includes the land for the new men’s prison in Lincoln County — heard safety concerns due to reducing the number of staff members involved when it comes to inmate transfers.

Jensen said, “typically, when you’re going to remove somebody from a cell, they like to have four guards there, but now it’s only one or two.”

Many of today’s issues are also in a 1993 report from then-Attorney General Mark Barnett following a riot.

The report suggested removing shotguns and replacing them with rifles at tower posts. In the last year, policy changes removed the rifles and went back to the 1993 practice of shotguns.