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Correctional Officers react to terminations at South Dakota State Penitentiary

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Governor Noem released an additional statement regarding the changes underway due to an ongoing investigation at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

In a statement this Thursday morning, State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young, who was put on administrative leave Tuesday, has now been terminated. Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske has also been terminated.

The reactions from numerous Correctional Officers working in many different units at the prison are responding with Skepticism, mixed with a glimmer of hope, at the changes underway at the prison.

Until her termination, Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske had worked in the correctional system since 2002.

Co-workers report Dreiske started as the cultural activities coordinator who created a positive relationship with many Native American inmates.

According to her LinkedIn account, Dreiske held various positions, being the first female associate warden and deputy warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

A former correctional officer claims that despite his previous management experience and earning a BS, and MS in Criminal Justice, he was passed over for promotions multiple times by people with less leadership experience, and no relatable educational background.

Dreiske lists her education as has a BA in Anthropology and Religious Studies and a minor in Jewish Studies.

A former correctional officer at the prison, Morgan Stover, worked with Dreiske. Stover helped a co-worker struggling with a mental health issue, and involved Dreiske to get help. Two months later Stover gave her notice and says she was shocked at Dreiske’s reaction while expressing work concerns at an exit interview.

“At the end, she said ‘right you know, I could take you more seriously if you hadn’t gotten involved with that officer a few months ago.’ She said and I’ll never forget this. She said to me that I should have left it stand, and let it play out as was and not have stepped in,” said Stover. “And that’s when I stood up and I took my officer shirt, I unbuttoned it I folded it, and said I can’t work here anymore, I’m done.”

Stover has advice for those who have had enough.

“I left, I found a job opportunity in Sioux Falls, You can leave, and someone will treat you better,” said Stover.

And for those who chose to stay:

“Stay safe please, and watch out for your other officers,” said Stover.

Another Correctional Officer, who we’ve been in contact with since May is worried to speak publically but told me:

“I think this is what needed to happen! We need to put people in those positions that care about the place, that want to see people succeed!!”

Governor Noem also announced that the Director of Pheasantland Industries Stefany Bawek was placed on administrative leave. She was observed being escorted out of the building, along with her dog, who was being trained by inmates.

Current correctional officers are estimating there to be approximately 50 to 70 positions needing to be filled. Mandatory overtime was enacted as of last Friday.

We’ve requested an interview with a representative from the Department of Corrections and received a response that there would be no comment. We also connected with the author of the anonymous letter who sparked the investigation.

The author stands by the May 5th letter sent and asks for further investigation into the remaining concerns listed.

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