Showers at South Dakota Penitentiary Canceled Due to Staffing Issues
All types of businesses are having problems filling open positions for employees. Government entities are not immune either and it is hitting the South Dakota prison system hard.
According to Dakota News Now, the vacancy rate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls is 46 percent. That means almost half of the staff that would normally be working there does not exist right now. In September of 2021, the vacancy rate was only 25 percent.
With that many people missing, lots of things are not being done that normally would be. Most notably, without enough people to handle inmates out of their cells, showers were canceled from April 22 through 24. A Pow Wow that was scheduled several months ago also had to be canceled, despite invitations being sent out to families and community members in advance of the event.
The problem is only getting worse as veteran staff are getting overworked. Mandatory overtime has been given to some employees on weekends just to cover all of the shifts with a skeleton crew.
An anonymous correctional officer at the penitentiary put it simply when they described information from a consultant's report on the situation. For every employee they hire at the prison, two employees quit. That's a brutal rate of attrition.
The state has done some things to remedy the problem, like offering higher starting pay and offering a $5,000 hiring bonus. But when you get an uncompetitive wage for a very tough job, money, especially temporary money, is not enough to retain an employee in an era where there are job openings everywhere.
Governor Noem, this needs fixing yesterday. No speech or statement is required, just fix it.