Legislative Day 4: House Judiciary hears from Dept. of Corrections on recruiting, retention

(Dakota news now)
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 11:18 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota secretary of corrections says recruiting new correctional officers in Sioux Falls is improving, but retention is still an issue.

That’s according to Sec. Kellie Wasko, who spoke to the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning.

Over the past couple of years, Wasko says starting pay for correctional officers has increased from about $17 an hour to $23 an hour.

She says 21 new correctional officer trainees are going through the corrections academy to work in the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Wasko says the warden said that should help the staffing situation. However, Wasko says there are still 91 openings, and the state penitentiary’s warden has to mandate overtime to ensure the prison can cover shifts.

Fortunately, Wasko said that “Penalty Hill” is the only one of the eight correctional institutions with ongoing staffing issues.

Wasko has been on the job for about ten months.

She says she is looking forward to a new women’s prison in Rapid City.

Wasko says the current facility in Pierre was designed to hold 270 inmates, but has 500 instead.

The secretary also said the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls was built in 1881, eight years before statehood, and has “done its duty.”