South Dakota Men’s Prison continues to battle bed bugs

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Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 6:36 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - After losing their infant son, and then turning to addiction, Alora Dobbeleare and her fiance Alec are trying to make a new start in life.

“Drug-related charges... and now we’re just trying to fix up our life and make people proud of us and show them that we’re not going to be drug addicts for the rest of our lives,” said Dobbeleare.

Alec is serving a sentence and hopes to be home this fall. Although the couple knew his incarceration would be difficult, they didn’t plan on Alec dealing with bedbugs at the Mike Durfee Prison in Springfield.

“They spray and doesn’t do anything because they got new mattresses, and they got infested really quick,” said Dobbeleare. Even one of the Sergeants recommended getting somebody from the outside to bring it to somebody else’s attention.”

Dobbeleare hopes her conversation with us will bring changes. She says her fiance is given a one-time use bedbug spray, but they reappear within hours and continue to bite.

The prison policy initiative organization follows inmate issues across the nation. Spokesperson Wanda Bertram doesn’t believe pests should be part of serving time.

“I don’t think anybody that’s watching right now would like the idea of having a loved one locked up in a facility that had bedbugs or had any other major sanitation problems,” said Bertram.

Although an occasional bedbug problem may not be alarming to hear of in a prison, it could appear that without following proper guidance, the bedbug issue could only get worse.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that hiring a professional exterminator may be the only way to get rid of bedbugs. it also directs to discard infested items, such as mattresses and furniture. Personal items should be bagged and put in a freezer for at least four days, or items can be put in a clothes dryer on a high heat setting.

The current course of treatment may not be enough.

“One of the three of people incarcerated did not have access to sanitary supplies, and they were, they’re living in unsanitary conditions so conditions that are dirty, they’re grimy, they’re not safe, and they don’t have access to supplies that they can use to clean up,” said Bertram.

The Centers for disease control and the EPA released a joint statement, describing bedbugs as a public health issue:

Many people have mild to severe allergic reactions to the bites and in rare cases, anaphylaxis. These bites can also lead to secondary infections of the skin. Bed bugs may also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia.

“And one of the ways in which incarceration really affects people is in terms of their mental health,” said Bertram.

Prison is not designed to be easy, but worrying about bed bug bites can raise anxiety to a whole new level.

“Our organization exists to kind of show the data about what’s going on inside prisons but you don’t need data to convince people that this would be a horrible condition to live in,” said Bertram.

“I hope that they understand where I’m coming from because just think about it, what if their son or daughter, or brother or father was in prison, and they were dealing with this, you would think that they’d want to say something to,” said Dobbeleare.

Upon receiving our first report of bed bugs, we requested an interview with the South Dakota Department of Corrections on June 10th and received a response the next day. Communications and information manager Michael Winder states: “We received a report of bedbugs in a room of one of the inmate housing units. An exterminator treated the affected area, and we are continuing to have them do additional fumigation as needed.”

After the second report of bed bugs came into Dakota News Now, we asked again for an interview with the South Dakota Department of Corrections and received a statement from Winder:

“We’ve been treating the areas regularly, including another treatment by the exterminator on July 2. We’re also exploring heat treatment by another service. Among the other things that have been done is replacing wooden dressers with metal lockers and removing the wooden desk table from the wall to eliminate areas where the bugs may hide.”

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