South Dakota House approves Rapid City women’s prison funds

(MGN Online)
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 2:52 PM MST
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PIERRE, SD. (SDBA) – The South Dakota House passes two large spending bills for planning a new women’s prison in Rapid City and the planning and purchase of land for a new men’s facility in the Sioux Falls area.

House Bill 1016, the bill allocating $60 million for the women’s prison, passed the chamber 66 to 2 without debate. It now goes to a Senate committee.

However, House Bill 1017, which would provide around $52 million to purchase land for the new facility and move nearly $184 million from the state budget reserve into a prison building fund, met some opposition.

“This is a core state obligation,” said Republican House Majority Leader Will Mortenson from Pierre. “We can’t say I wish it would go away or not do it. No one is happy with this. It will be safer for prisoners and rehabilitation. It will be safer for the guards.”

Republican Rep. Marty Overweg from New Holland said legislators should slow the process because of too many unanswered questions.

“This is government gone wild,” Overweg said. “It is an open checkbook. This will cost the taxpayers of South Dakota hundreds of millions of dollars.”

One legislator asked if the state could bond for the new prison.

However, the prime sponsor, Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen, said the state could only bond up to $200 million. After that, the state would lose its triple-A bond rating.

According to the state Department of Corrections, the cost estimate for the new men’s prison is between $535 and $550 million.

The men’s prison funding bill passed 53 to 16.

HB 1017 will also now go to a Senate committee.