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Allegations surface of South Dakota Prison Inmates being housed in frigid gym

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 9:42 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Prison is not designed to be a place of comfort. Our I-team is receiving calls and texts with concerns for Women incarcerated at the Women’s Prison in Pierre, and what they say is a lack of basic human necessities.

American Bar Association’s treatment of prisoners standards defines expectations for a prison facility. One of those items, to have appropriate heating and ventilation systems.

Kelly Abel is worried for her friend who said where she was sleeping, she could see her breath.

“They’re freezing. All of them are freezing in this gym,” said Abel.

While frigid winds rolled through Pierre recently, the women directed to sleep in the women’s prison gym asked for help.

“She was sick and she had COVID and that there was like 13 or 15 women that were in there,” said Abel.

After a cold weekend, there was some relief.

“They gave them extra blankets and a pair of thermals,” said Abel.

One family member said their loved one in the gym also had covid.

“It’s a large room. it’s very tall. It’s not very well insulated, and I’m afraid that they’re gonna get sick and some of them are gonna die,” said Abel.

Our I-team has been requesting interviews and information with the South Dakota Department of Corrections for several topics since December 13th. After making a third request and copying the Governor’s spokesperson, we received this response:

“COVID positive inmates are not housed in the gym. The inmates that are currently in the gym were in the Admissions and Orientation unit. When inmates test positive for COVID-19, we isolate them from non-positive inmates and quarantine those identified as close contacts. That requires moving inmates and their allowable property to different housing units and other parts of facilities; changing schedules for programming, meals, and recreation; in addition to adjusting how we handle inmate movement.

We continue to ensure proper protocols are being followed to ensure the health and safety of our staff and the men and women in custody.

It is 70 degrees in the gym. Inmates in the gym who are cold are provided with extra blankets and thermal clothing. Inmates have access to medical care.”

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