There are three levels of security at South Dakota Women’s Prison (SDWP) in Pierre. But it is one facility where security levels matter little. The inmates live free and are largely at peace with one another.
This prison facility is a controlled environment where women serve out their sentences in quiet and relative peace. But it is not one without its occasional fair of squabbles.
The women’s prison in Pierre is the only women’s prison in South Dakota. As can be expected with any prison facilities, it is walled round with barbed-wire rolled on the fencing.
Vigilant security guards watch the fences and the cell blocks, with cameras recording every activity to boost security.
The exterior of the prison presents a formidable fortress. But the interior presents a hold where women prisoners are relaxed.
Officials Tour South Dakota Women’s Prison
Deputy Warden Darren Berg and Warden Wanda Markland together with Michael Winder, spokesman for the South Dakota Department of Corrections (SDDOC), took reporters on a tour of South Dakota Women’s Prison.
Many of the ladies sat together inside locked cells, either in clusters or individually, chatting or reading books. Some laughed at jokes while others just listened in with drinks in their hands.
To use the gym or toilet, they waited patiently in line without anyone really supervising them in any physical way.
Winder disclosed that generally, the atmosphere at the SD women’s prison is more relaxed and communal than at men’s prisons where strife is rife. Berg said:
The women tend to be more relationship dependent, and they tend to bond more deeply than men.
Women’s Prison inmates assisted with cleanup of Missouri River in Pierre July 8. More than 2 tons of debris collected pic.twitter.com/XbBNmtfwI5
— South Dakota DOC (@SouthDakotaDOC) July 9, 2015
Up to 85% of the inmates are serving an average of eight months for non-violent crimes, such as drug possession. There are about 490 inmates at the women’s prison in South Dakota.
Most of the women at Pierre engage in skill-giving activities to help them reform as well as empower them with economic skills for life after prison. Some take part in cheap prison labor, such as sewing and quilting, to earn nowhere near than minimum wage.
Inmates at the SDWP with these jobs earn 25 cents per hour.
This is money that could be used for:
- Commissary items
- Phone calls
- Downloadable music
- Downloading eBooks
A few others aid in archiving newspapers. Others learn repair and assembling skills. And some undergo treatment for drug addiction along with other valuable tools.
Pregnant Women Treated with Dignity at SDWP
Inmates sleep and spend most of their days in cell blocks that reflect their security levels. The colors of their shirts and pants indicate their security level and custody. These are dependent on:
- The offense committed by the inmate
- Their behavior
- Compliance to prison regulations
Based on these, prisoners with good standing are allowed up to four hours of recreation every day at the gym and on the fenced yard.
For pregnant inmates, visiting obstetricians and gynecologists attend to their antenatal needs. Baby deliveries take place at a nearby hospital with no regular security. Mothers have up to 30 days to bond with their babies before handing them over to family members.
Well-behaved imprisoned mothers can have their children under the age of 12 visit for 24 hours in a separate housing unit. It's equipped with the following for the ladies to spend quality time with their prison kids:
- Living room
Upsides & Downsides to the Setup at the Women’s Prison in SD
Berg revealed that the general atmosphere at SDWP fosters acceptance and cooperation in a manner that makes inmates better people who are eligible for early release.
Based on the above, the South Dakota Women’s Prison in Pierre boasts of the following advantages:
- Relaxed atmosphere for a communal life experience
- Freedom to mix and relate with other inmates under relaxed rules
- Access to books, iPads, music and movie devices
- Reduced strife and almost non-existent violence
- Medical treatment and parenting classes for pregnant women
- Treatment programs for drug addiction
- Skill acquisition programs for economic empowerment
- Education classes to obtain GED high-school certificates
- Opportunity for early release for well-behaved inmates
What are the Downsides to the South Dakota Women’s Prison in Pierre?
Can you think of any downsides to the institutional setup at SDWP in Pierre? Please share your with our readers in the comments section below.