History of the Pennington County Jail

Originally the Pennington County Courthouse was built in 1883 near the site of the present court house. Jail space was included in the design. The building survived a fire in 1897 and was in use until 1921.

The existing Pennington County Courthouse and old Jail were built in 1921. The jail consisted of an apartment on the second floor, cells on the first floor, and a boiler and kitchen in the basement. The second floor was occupied by either the Sheriff or a Jailer and his wife, depending on the times. Law enforcement officers brought in detainees and if the jailer was not available at the time, the officer would put the person in the cell. Classification consisted of males in one cell and females and children in another.

The late 50's and early 60's saw an addition to the east side of the jail. Two maximum security cellblocks and three other cells were added to meet the rising needs of a growing community. The maximum security blocks were "state of the art", with separate cubicles, each of which could be locked down, independent of the others. This was accomplished with a lever system to slide the doors open and closed. These cells were constructed of heavy steel bars. Jail capacity was determined by how many bunks would fit in the area available.

The 1960’s were a time of many modifications to the county complex. In 1963 the county contracted for a basement to be dug beneath the courthouse building and a south elevator to be installed. Without the heavy equipment available today, the basement was completed with back breaking work, digging done with use of hand tools, dirt wheeled out by the wheelbarrow full. When done, the new basement became home for the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. Not to be ignored, the jail was also added to on the west side of the building. A visitation area and garage were added in the mid 60's, with the garage later being modified as an intake area and administrative offices.

Being a forward thinker, then Sheriff Holloway looked toward what was then known as the "New Generation Jail" and more particularly, a "Podular Direct Supervision" design which allows the officer to continually supervisor a larger number of inmates than the older linear type of jail design allows. An essential element for success is educating and involving existing jail staff in the process so jail staff members visited numerous facilities with direct supervision designs. The transition from "jailer" to "Correctional Officer" was under way. Training also began on the direct supervision principles and dynamics. Another goal set during this process was that of one day achieving American Correctional Association Accreditation status.

As plans for the new jail unfolded, the existing jail still had to meet the County needs. In 1985 an annex was erected in the jail parking lot. This building housed up to 42 male work release and trustee inmates. It had a central area consisting of showers and restrooms and a perimeter with open bays, each with four to six bunks per bay. One end of the structure had a dayroom, complete with a pool table. Pennington County also had a standing 10 beds reserved in the Meade County Jail which were kept full nearly all the time. The county was known to also house overflow inmates in Lawrence County, Bennett County, Hughes County, and in the year prior to moving into the new jail, as far away as Minnehaha County.

By the mid 1980s the jail design was determined and the process to apply for funding began. The original jail design called for 5 floors, a ground floor and four more. The cost for this facility was determined to be too high, so the design was reduced by a floor with plans to expand upward when the need arose. The contractors broke ground and the building process began. The building process lasted for two years.

In June of 1989 the male work release and trustee inmates moved into their cellblock in the new jail and the annex building was sold. As the rest of the facility was still under construction, the inmates entered the facility through what is now an emergency exit on St. Joseph Street, walking along wooden planks laid over top the autumn mud to reach the entry. This was truly a remote cellblock from the old jail at 302 Kansas City Street. Pennington County hired many new officers and training in Direct Supervision Concepts continued.

By December of 1989, the rest of the facility was ready for occupancy and the great move was accomplished with little fuss. With 236 beds, the New Pennington County Jail more than doubled the old jail bed space of 109, with 67 beds, including two 10 bed temporary holding cells, and a 42 bed annex.

With so much extra space, Pennington County rented out an entire cellblock to the South Dakota State Penitentiary. The original intention was to house inmates who were close to release dates in the geographic area in which they planned to reside. Those inmates close to release dates were all involved in programs at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and Pennington County housed 48 special management inmates. Along with the State Pen inmates, Pennington County housed inmates for numerous small neighboring counties, in transit inmates, and the US Marshals.

After much planning and work on the part of the Sheriff, supporting departments, and all jail staff, in 1993 the Jail was accredited by the American Correctional Association. Over the course of the next few years the local jail population continued to grow and the SDSP inmates were returned to Sioux Falls. By 1999 a number of bunks were utilized and/or added, raising the jail capacity from 236 to 276. The county found itself in the position of housing inmates in other counties again and searched for alternative housing opportunities for the work release inmates. Although the main floor of the old jail at 302 Kansas City Street had been converted into offices, the second floor remained little changed. This area was renovated and the male work release inmates were moved in, understanding this to be a temporary arrangement. In 2002 the jail Work Release inmates were moved to the Adams Street facility, a building which had previously housed Juvenile Detention, Court Services, and Juvenile Courts. Still a leader in the corrections field, the Pennington County Work Release program later expanded, being chosen to test a Bureau of Prisons pre-release pilot program.

Facing ever growing population needs, Pennington County planned for expansion. A parking ramp and a jail annex were designed, along with modifications to the Public Safety Building. Ground broke and by 2003 the Parking Ramp was opened.

By 2004 Pennington County was again housing inmates in other counties. By August of 2005 the out of county numbers were about 40 and the county remodeled part of the Work Release Facility on Adams Street to house overflow population from the main jail. As the male inmate population was addressed, the female inmate population continued to grow. By 2006 the county was housing overflow females out of county along with the overflow male population at the Adams Street Facility.

In the spring of 2006, the fourth floor of the new jail annex, 106 beds, was ready for occupancy. By the time the secure inmates from Adam Street were moved in, and the females from other counties were returned. As construction continued, in the spring of 2009 the third floor of the annex was opened with occupancy of 104. In 2011 under the direction of Sheriff Thom, Work Release inmates were moved from the Adams Street Facility to the second floor of the new jail annex with the capacity to house 116 Work Release inmates. The current capacity of Pennington County Jail is 580, not including the 20 holding cells in the Booking area. The Pennington County Jail continues to embrace progress as it adapts to meet the ever changing needs of the citizens of Pennington County.

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307 St. Joseph St.
Rapid City, SD 57701


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