Jail overflow raises a need for more space

The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 7:29 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - With the Pennington County Jail running at or close to capacity, some inmates had to be transferred to Jail South, which is located near the Juvenile Services Center on Campbell Street. The overflow of inmates brings up questions about what the future of Rapid City will look like if we’re unable to keep dangerous people off the streets.

According to Sheriff Brian Mueller, the Pennington County Jail has been running at or close to capacity since 2014, and even with more than 600 beds available in the current jail, space for new inmates is starting to become an issue.

“We are currently working on some plans to add additional jail bed space here in Pennington County, locally. We’re working within the budget amount that Pennington County has available to the building fund, to come up with a plan. My goal would be to try to increase our capacity by 150 beds within the next two years, to meet our current needs, and then have whatever facility we design to accommodate future growth,” said Mueller.

The jail harbors both local inmates, as well as federal. The U.S. Marshals Service does pay local counties to house the federal inmates, however, local taxpayer money is used to house Pennington County inmates. With a cost of more than $90 a day to take care of one inmate, local taxes could increase to continue keeping these people in jail.

“Homeowners right now are very concerned about their property taxes. We want to be the best steward of property tax dollars. But the fact is the counties are struggling across the state of South Dakota on how to deal with their incarceration needs, and incarceration needs are so very expensive. We have a community that says ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ but there are dollars that go with that,” said Helene Duhamel, District 32 Senator.

Duhamel says at the mid-September legislature meeting, the senators will work on creating solutions to help counties across the state keep their needs met, without raising taxes too high.

Mueller went on to say even at full capacity, the jail will still find a way to house those who need to be held.

“We are not going to turn people away that need to be locked up here in Pennington County, but we’re going to be smart about how we handle our open bed space,” concluded Mueller.