- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Better pay for prison guards is helping reduce turnover at South Dakota’s state prisons, according to Corrections officials.

In 2013, annual turnover rate for corrections officers at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls peaked at about 35 percent. Since then, the department has increased starting pay each year.

As of July 1, new officers will earn $15.50 an hour, up from $13.56 in fiscal year 2013. That amount puts South Dakota’s starting pay for correctional officers ahead of what’s offered in Montana and Nebraska but behind Minnesota and North Dakota.

“We are doing everything we possibly can,” Department of Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk said. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Kaemingk told the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1svfq1B ) that the efforts appear to be paying off.

Turnover at the South Dakota State Penitentiary fell below 30 percent in the current fiscal year. Fifteen new prison guards started working at the facility this week.

This fiscal year, turnover at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield fell to 21 percent from 26 percent in 2013, and it fell to 27 percent from 33 percent in 2013 at the South Dakota Women’s Prison in Pierre.

Like many employers in South Dakota, the state’s prison system has struggled with common labor market challenges, but it’s also a tumultuous business under normal conditions.

“There are people that come in and work and it’s not they thought it was going to be,” so they leave, Kaemingk said.

As of Monday, there were 30 full-time and one part-time correctional officer vacancies.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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