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Prison official fired by Gov. Noem says she wasn't told why
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Prison official fired by Gov. Noem says she wasn't told why

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Ronald 'RJ' Johnson Training Academy

The Ronald 'RJ' Johnson Training Academy at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS | A former South Dakota prison official recently fired by Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that she wasn't told why she was dismissed.

Jennifer Dreiske, the former deputy warden at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, had worked at the Department of Corrections for 19 years until Noem announced Thursday that she was being fired along with the prison's warden, Darin Young.

The Department of Human Services had been investigating an anonymous complaint that alleged that supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their colleagues, that employee morale was low, and that promotions were plagued by nepotism.

Dreiske said in a statement on Facebook that she “never wavered” in her duties but that she was fired without an explanation.

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“My priorities have always been to promote the safety of our staff and the rehabilitation of our incarcerated population,” she wrote.

Noem also suspended her Cabinet secretary who oversees the state's prisons and the director of a prison work program. The governor has declined to comment on the investigation beyond issuing two statements and releasing the anonymous complaint.

The complaint alleges that attempts to report sexual harassment from supervising corrections officers were ignored and that schedules at the prison were adjusted so the officers could “work in the same vicinities" as the victims. It further alleges that employee morale was low, with wages that lag behind those in other industries, that corrections officers don't have tactical equipment that is “up to standards,” and that promotions have been based on personal connections.

The organization representing state employees, the South Dakota State Employees Organization, has said that many complaints surfaced in the spring about low morale and high employee turnover.

Dreiske said, “I hope attention shifts to improving conditions for the staff and those who are incarcerated."

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