Governor Kristi Noem has placed the South Dakota State Prison Warden, Darin Young, and Corrections Secretary Mike Leidholt, on administrative leave.

This action follows a review of an anonymous letter by the State Bureau of Human Resources. The letter addressed multiple problematic issues at the State Penitentiary, regarding staff morale and procedures.

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The six areas of grievance listed included:

  • Results - Staff issues were expressed in relation to work conditions, but ignored.
  • Pay - This section examined pay and salary levels in comparison to other employment situations.
  • Benefits - Consideration should be given to the loss of health benefits and fear of losing a retirement pension.
  • Spending - Financial assets being devoted to needless beautification projects and not the security of the facility and staff.
  • Equipment & training - Body armor, holsters, and other items are outdated, secondhand, and not up to date in appearance or performance. Training is inadequate at best.
  • Promotions - Described as the biggest morale problem due to promotions based on "nepotism and sycophancy". This area also addressed sexual harassment.

Other employees complained about the lack of people hired and mandatory overtime shifts.

The governor said:

“My top priority as governor is keeping South Dakotans safe, and that includes the men and women who work at the State Penitentiary and those who are confined there”.

Governor Noem immediately appointed Tim Reish to serve as interim Secretary of Corrections, which was a position he held from 2003 to 2011. The governor also announced that “Doug Clark, the Deputy Secretary of Corrections, is stepping in as acting warden of the State Penitentiary until a longer-term interim can be named."

The governor is also assigning two of her cabinet members to work with Reish and Clark and initiate "immediate action" with respect to this issue, as well as bring in an independent third party to review the situation and make recommendations.

Source: Dakota News Now

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