Only a handful of correctional officers at the Pennington County Jail are Native American

The jail explains protocol surrounding inmate safety.
The jail explains protocol surrounding inmate safety.(KOTA)
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 4:59 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - More than 55% of the inmates in the Pennington County Jail are Native Americans, but only 7 of the officers who work in the facility can relate because of their own native background, a number the sheriff’s department would like to see increase.

Samantha Decory is one of those 7 officers after deciding to change careers, going from a teacher aide to a correctional officer at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Adult Correctional Facility

“On the reservation, we have jobs that pay higher than others. As a teacher’s aide, I was only making 9.50 to 10 bucks an hour and I needed to make some more money,” said Decory.

So, she made the switch before transferring to the Pennington County Jail where she says what started as a need for extra money has turned into a rewarding career.

“You get to see a lot of things that people don’t get to see. It takes a special kind of person to work in this field. It’s not for everybody, but it’s worth a shot,” said Decory.”

Decory added working as one of a handful of Native Americans in the jail brings some sort of comfort to the inmates.

“They come to me about concerns that they have. Asking me ‘did you grow up in a res’ and yes I did. So, they would say ‘okay this is what I have going on,’ ‘I don’t know what to do,’ and they would just vent and talk and get things off their chest. I get a lot of, you know, ‘Oh, it’s finally a Native American in uniform. We feel safe’ and I’m like I don’t know what they mean when they say that because I think everyone, I work with here does a great job,” said Decory.

She said she enjoys being a correctional officer and helping bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.

“A lot of people, and not just natives, have had bad run-ins with people behind badges. I think it’s a very positive role to be a part of to try to bridge that gap and not only for inmates but for people who are looking for a career in corrections or maybe just in law enforcement in general,” said Decory.

She encourages everyone who is considering applying for a position in law enforcement to give it a shot.

“It’s good to see more people applying, not just Native Americans, but everybody,” said Decory.

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