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Noem places two top corrections officials on leave after I-Team investigation

(KSFY)
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young and Corrections Secretary Mike Leidholt have been placed on administrative leave following an internal review of conduct by the state Bureau of Human Resources.

In a statement Tuesday night, Gov. Kristi Noem said she was briefed about an internal review by the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources. The review followed an investigation following an anonymous complaint. A copy of the anonymous complaint can be found at the bottom of this article.

Dakota News Now I-Team Reporter Beth Warden first reported on the anonymous complaint and issues at the penitentiary in May.

The author of the anonymous letter addressed multiple issues regarding correctional officers and the department of corrections, particularly at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Those issues included lack of proper safety equipment, emphasis on beautification of the property rather than safety, and low morale stemming from what the author described as a lack of listening to the concerns of those employed at the penitentiary.

Darrin Young, left, and Mike Leidholt
Darrin Young, left, and Mike Leidholt(State of South Dakota)

Following a review of the report, Noem placed Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave.

“My top priority as governor is keeping South Dakotans safe, and that includes the men and women who work at the State Penitentiary and those who are confined there,” said Noem.

The governor announced that she will appoint Tim Reisch to serve as interim Secretary of Corrections. Doug Clark, the Deputy Secretary of Corrections, will serve as acting warden of the State Penitentiary until a long-term interim can be named. The governor has also asked Bureau of Human Resources Commissioner Darin Seeley and Social Services Secretary Laurie Gill to assist Clark. They will work at the penitentiary.

Here is the full statement from Noem’s office (story continues below):

At approximately 7:00 pm Central time tonight, Governor Noem was briefed on a summary of an internal review conducted by the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources that was prepared as part of an investigation following an anonymous complaint. A copy of the anonymous complaint can be found here.

In light of that report, a few moments ago, Governor Noem placed Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave.

“My top priority as governor is keeping South Dakotans safe, and that includes the men and women who work at the State Penitentiary and those who are confined there,” said Governor Noem.

The Governor announced that she will appoint Tim Reisch to serve as interim Secretary of Corrections. Reisch retired in 2019 after eight years as Adjutant General of the South Dakota National Guard. From 2003 to 2011, Reisch served as Secretary of Corrections. Prior to that time, he also served as Deputy Secretary of Corrections and as Miner County sheriff. His appointment is effective immediately.

Governor Noem also announced that Doug Clark, the Deputy Secretary of Corrections, is stepping in as acting warden of the State Penitentiary until a longer-term interim can be named. The Governor has also assigned two members of her cabinet to work from the Penitentiary and assist Acting Warden Clark in addressing this internal review: Darin Seeley, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Human Resources (BHR); and Laurie Gill, the Secretary of Social Services and a former BHR Commissioner and Mayor of Pierre.

Governor Noem has instructed General Reisch, Acting Warden Clark, Secretary Gill, and Commissioner Seeley to take immediate action to address this internal review and to commission an independent third party to investigate the penitentiary and offer additional recommendations.

No further comment will be made at this time.

Multiple correctional officers have told Dakota News Now that improper levels of staffing are causing safety concerns for both inmates and officers.

Frequent requests were made by management to take on additional overtime shifts. An email dated June 28 stated: “I am in desperate need for help tonight on hill rec crew, west hall and hill visits.”

On Friday, July 9, a letter from Chief Warden Young advised all uniformed staff would need to work mandatory overtime.

Below is the anonymous complaint filed in May

Governor Kristi Noem's office released an anonymous letter about working conditions in the...
Governor Kristi Noem's office released an anonymous letter about working conditions in the Department of Corrections and the South Dakota State Penitentiary.(KSFY)
Governor Kristi Noem's office released an anonymous letter about working conditions in the...
Governor Kristi Noem's office released an anonymous letter about working conditions in the Department of Corrections and the South Dakota State Penitentiary.(KSFY)

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