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Concern raised about cost of proposed men's prison

Proposed rendering of the new men's prison near Sioux Falls.
South Dakota Dept. of Corrections
Proposed rendering of the new men's prison near Sioux Falls.

State lawmakers are moving forward on placing additional dollars toward two new prison construction projects.

During the last two sessions, state lawmakers have placed more $365 million into a fund to pay for the facilities.

The state’s two major prisons are overcrowded and outdated.

That’s why Gov. Kristi Noem wants to place another quarter-of-a-billion dollars into a fund to pay for the facilities near Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

The money will come from a mixture of general funds, reserves and federal COVID dollars. Officials with the governor’s office say they want to avoid issuing bonds to help pay for the facilities.

Even with the additional down payment, the state will still be roughly $140 million short to fully fund the projects.

Recent estimates show the proposed men’s prison could cost more than $700 million dollars.

That price tag has several lawmakers on the state’s budgeting committee concerned.

Republican Representative Tony Venhuizen is one of them. Still, he and other lawmakers are moving forward with funding the massive projects.

“What we’re doing is we’re taking one time money and we’re putting it in a savings account so that we have the money built up to pay for this prison,” Venhuizen said. “There’s still time to talk about what’s the final design going to be, what’s the plan, what’s the quality, what’s the scope. There are a lot of opportunities left to talk about the total cost.”

Once paid for, the prison facilities will be one of the largest purchases in state history. Most of the money is coming from state coffers.

Department of Corrections officials say they will know a final cost for the men’s prison by the end of the year. They expect the men’s prison to get built by June of 2029. They hope to have women’s prison facility in Rapid City built by 2026.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.