South Dakota Department of Corrections cuts commissary purchases by nearly half at Penitentiary

South Dakota Department of Corrections
South Dakota Department of Corrections(Dakota news now)
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 10:46 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The Department of Corrections continues to make changes at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, affecting both correctional officers and inmates.

As inmates spend up to 23 1/2 hours in their cells daily and face canceled or reduced recreation time, religious events, and even showers, the DOC has added a new cap on commissary purchases to $25 per week. According to a former DOC employee, the previous limit was $40 for several years.

“SDDOC has increased commissary over time due to increased requests for offenders to purchase food items because they did not like the food that was being provided,” said Winder. “We have a new food service provider who offenders have told us improved the quality of food and we now have more offenders attending meals, we made the decision to decrease commissary spending to $25 for general population, which is in alignment with many other agencies across the nation. Commissary limits are standard across the nation to limit hoarding of products that could be used to barter, gamble, or otherwise compromise the security of our institutions.”

Commissary packages are more than food items. Inmates may also purchase toiletries, stationery, stamps, and other personal items.

After the change in shifts at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on November 9th, some Correctional Officers are reporting unfilled posts on the schedule. The shifts were reduced from 12 hours to 8 hours.

The changes come amidst over 100 vacancies at the Penitentiary.

“The key reason for the vacant posts are due to staff calling off for their shifts, staff on military duty, staff out on FMLA, and staff that are using vacation as they are getting ready to retire,” said Spokesperson Michael Winder.

Winder says the new schedule is designed to provide more flexibility for family time.

“According to the staffing analysis that was conducted, the eight-hour shifts gave staff more hours per day to spend with families versus the 12-hour shifts,” said Winder.

As inmates have limited time at their Prisons workshops in Sioux Falls and Springfield, the waiting list for Governor’s Homes has nearly tripled from one to three years.

As the USDA recently launched a program to provide mortgages on reservations, one of the delays in the program is the three years to have a Governor’s home.

The Governor’s Homes, which are constructed at the Springfield Prison, are backlogged due to inmates unable to work on the construction projects, stemming from a lack of Correctional Officers to oversee them. The Governor’s home website states, “Due to the current production capacity, new house orders will not be ready for delivery for 3+ years. Houses already on order may also be delayed.”