Taxpayers to foot the bill for $13,000 Desk in Secretary of Corrections office

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 9:15 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Another luxury executive desk is on order with the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

A $13,000 solid red oak desk currently being built at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, at their prison workshop Pheasantland industries, will certainly make a statement.

Several sources working within the Department of corrections notified our I-team out of frustration. They claim the money could have gone for more safety equipment and other desperately needed items within the Department of Corrections.

Secretary Kellie Wasko’s name is on the top of the order. The desk, measuring over 100 inches long, is larger than an inmate bunk. Documents confirm that unlike Governor Noem’s $9,000 desk purchase back in 2021, South Dakota Taxpayers will be footing the bill.

Representative Kameron Nelson of Sioux Falls says he is concerned.

“Two years ago when Governor Noem had a similar fiasco of sorts, I would hope that the administration does look at and learn from those experiences,” said Nelson. $13,000 feels like a large sum.”

Nelson believes Wasko is doing some great things.

“I just hope that she prioritizes rehabilitative services, such as reopening the library that’s been closed since 2017, looking at other ways to make sure our prison systems are safe and funded and secure by way of other staff members,” said Nelson.

Department of Corrections media representative Michael Winder responded to our interview request with a statement: “The Depart of Corrections followed the normal procurement process to acquire multiple pieces of furniture and paid full price for the furniture,” said Winder.

The desk is due to be completed in June, with at least $7,000 in labor costs. That is a lot of time and effort to build the project, as inmates make less than one dollar per hour.

We spoke with several other legislators and showed them the documents:

“The Department of Corrections is currently having a hard time paying enough to recruit and retain staff, so it’s shocking that they’re willing to pay $13,000 for a new desk. That is a full year’s rent for many South Dakotans. Taxpayers’ hard earned money shouldn’t be used on frivolous items such as this.” Representative Erin Healy, Sioux Falls.

“I can’t imagine that one needs that expensive of a desk.” Senator Shawn Bordeaux, Mission.

“I did a follow-up on the purchase of the desk, and I concluded that the decision was within the norms of the requested purchase. The purchase of the desk had four furniture components with it for the desk efficiency and organization, following the ordering process of the agency. The Secretary had concluded that since Pheasantland industries is within the correctional system, it would be appropriate to purchase the desks from them. Pheasantland industries is a business within the walls that provides job training and skill set for the inmates to be able to enter the workforce after completing their prison sentence. It would make sense to utilize the industries to support the operations since it is a state entity. And from my knowledge base, the type of desk structure that was being requested is within the realm of a fair market price for the same type of desk. The Secretary concluded that this was an opportunity to showcase the industry that way to promote to our visitors that come to our office and Pierre. It would seem supporting a vocational opportunity for the inmates that work and doesn’t lend industries is more positive than it is negative.” Senator Jean Hunhoff, Yankton.