UPDATE: Noem responds to SD State Penitentiary employees’ concerns

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 3:46 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Gov. Kristi Noem made a statement Monday in response to South Dakota State Penitentiary employees who expressed frustration with Department of Corrections leadership last week.


Noem stated that concerns raised through appropriate channels have been addressed by Wasko. Noem said that employees have worked to make “needed changes” and report “significant improvement in operations and culture.”

“Secretary Wasko has earned my support and the respect of the vast majority of her team and the legislature,” said Noem.


According to a mass email sent to staff at the South Dakota Department of Corrections around 2:55 p.m. Thursday, Teresa Bittinger has been named as interim warden for the Sioux Falls State Penitentiary and Jameson Annex.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Our sources revealed that Bittinger was brought on staff three weeks ago and was introduced to staff as a new associate warden before the promotional announcement Thursday.

In 2021, Governor Noem had appointed Dan Sullivan as the warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, following a series of firings within the Department of Corrections. Those firings stemmed from an anonymous open letter from a correctional officer regarding allegations of nepotism, favoritism and other issues at the penitentiary.

The email to staff from the director of prisons did not indicate if Sullivan is still employed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections responded to our information request confirming the promotion, but added, “beyond that, we will not be discussing personnel matters.”

On Monday, Dakota News Now broke the story of a luxury $13,000 solid oak desk being built at the Penitentiary that was being paid for with taxpayer funds.

In a statement from a collective of State Penitentiary employees, they expressed frustration with DOC leadership after the appointment.