South Dakota State Penitentiary

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The South Dakota State Penitentiary also known as the Sioux Falls State Penitentiary is located in South Dakota's largest city, Sioux Falls, and holds the state's most deadly and dangerous criminals, as well as sex offenders. It was built in 1881. The building's industry shop makes several things for the state, including license plates.


The South Dakota State Penitentiary is located in northern Sioux Falls, occupying approximately thirty acres. First constructed as a territorial prison in 1881, it became the South Dakota State Penitentiary when South Dakota was granted statehood in 1889. Though a large portion of the original buildings remain, numerous structural changes have occurred over the years. The main Penitentiary facility contains three housing units. The G. Norton Jameson Annex began housing inmates in February 1993. The Jameson Annex contains three housing units within a secure perimeter and a minimum security unit known as Unit C, which is located outside the perimeter fence. Inmate employment within the Penitentiary falls into two basic categories; institutional support and prison industries. Institutional support includes those employed in food service, as clerks for various departments, as cell orderlies and those working in maintenance. Prison Industries consists of upholstery, printing, sign, decal, license plates, carpentry, book bindery, machine shop, Braille unit, garments and data entry. All but the garment and data entry work is done at the Penitentiary. Most of the work is done for government agencies. Inmates are offered literacy, Adult Basic Education and GED classes. The penitentiary was designed by Wallace A. Dow and constructed in 1882. The warden’s residence was completed in 1884. In the 1890s, prisoners quarried stone to build a wall to enclose the prison yard. The penitentiary is the subject of Sioux Falls’s most persistent urban legends, that Sioux Falls chose the penitentiary over the university because the state would always need a jail, but it is not true. In 1881, Richard Pettigrew lobbied for and succeeded in getting a federal appropriation to construct the jail in Sioux Falls, which can be seen from the Big Sioux River.

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