PIERRE, S.D. — Two top wardens overseeing the Sioux Falls prison have been fired, and the director of an inmate-employing manufacturing service is on leave, according to a statement from the office of Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday, July 15.
The announcement marks the latest developments in a growing scandal stemming from low morale among corrections employees and allegations of sexual harassment from leadership.
A morning news release from Noem's spokesman said Darin Young, the State Penitentiary Warden who'd been placed on administrative leave earlier this week, had been terminated. It was the same fate for Deputy Warden Jennifer Dreiske.
The news bulletin said the firings stemmed from an investigation by the state's Bureau of Human Resources.
The bulletin said that Stefany Bawek, who oversees Pheasantland Industries is also on administrative leave. Pheasantland makes goods from license plates to audio books for the hearing impaired.
Just two evenings earlier, Noem announced she'd placed Young and Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt on leave. Her office also posted an anonymous complaint from a Department of Corrections employee alleging bottom-of-the-region pay, inadequate health benefits, lack of promotions, shoddy safety equipment for correction officers, and even sexual harassment from superiors.
"They didn't only neglect corrections [employees], they neglected all government employees," said Eric Ollila, executive director of the South Dakota State Employees Organization, in a phone interview on Thursday, July 15.
Ollila said the low morale among DOC employees is part of a history of legislative "right-sizing" — or cutting positions and funding — at prisons and state health facilities in Redfield and Yankton.
In the complaint, the whistleblower blames administrative spending priorities as compromising "the physical security of the institution."
Just this week, an inmate at the Jameson Annex in Sioux Falls filed a suit in federal court against Young, alleging corrections officers broke his leg, with one yelling out "kill him."
Last month, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier allowed a lawsuit to go forward filed by an inmate at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield alleging "excessive heat" and "low ventilation" that is threatening the health of inmates.