South Dakota Senate passes two bills dealing with prisons in Sioux Falls & Rapid City

PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) — Legislative appropriators pass two bills this morning that provide either new funding or continuing funding for a new women’s prison in Rapid City and a new men’s prison in the Sioux Falls area.

The first prison bill, HB 1016, allocates $60 million for the first phase of the design and development of the new women’s facility in Rapid City.

The other bill, HB 1017, allocates over $340 million for the first two phases of design and construction for the men’s facility in Sioux Falls.

The current state penitentiary in Sioux Falls was built in 1881.

South Dakota Correction Secretary Kellie Wasko says it no longer serves its purpose, needs repairs, and is unsafe for staff and inmates.

“We don’t have the inmates they had in 1881,” Sec. Wasko said. “We don’t even have the inmates of the 1980s.”

She says they are more dangerous, more violent, and often addicted to drugs.

Plus, Sec. Wasko said the original prison–“The Hill”–was built for single occupancy cells.

Now, most cells are “multiple” inmates in them.

As to the women’s prison, Sec. Wasco said the new facility could be expanded with another unit. The current design has three 96-bed housing units.

Asked if the prison could add more space than even a fourth housing unit, Wasko balked.

“We could expand up (another story or two),” she said. “But you’ll need more staff if you do that.”

Sec. Wasko said modern prison design is on one level, which is easier to manage and staff and safer for inmates and staff.

The Secretary says the department expects ongoing prisoner increases because of population growth, particularly on the men’s side.

Currently, she testified that all the state’s prison facilities are over capacity or nearly so.

Sec. Wasco says the new facilities will allow for better separation of classes of inmates and provide more programming.

She says the current penitentiary in Sioux Falls would be “decommissioned.”

Sec. Wasco said she “didn’t care what happens to it,” but she says some states have repurposed old prisons or turned them into museums.

It is possible “The Hill” could be torn down.

Both appropriation bills passed on 17 to 0 votes.

They now go to the House floor.