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Why we need E: “prison slave labor”

I think he’s done it. I think he’s really gone off the deep end.

South Dakota J.A.I.L.er-in-chief Bill Stegmeier bought a full page ad in the Sioux Falls Shopping News asking, “Why are Judges, Lawyers, and Politicians, opposed to Amendment E?” The answer? South Dakota Prison Industries “is the largest employer in the state” and our prison population is high because the system and the state are “benefiting from cheap prison slave labor”.

I kid you not. Evidently, Stegmeier’s new campaign theme is that judges put people in prison so the state can make money. As usual, though, it’s not hard to establish just how ludicrous this is.

As noted, the ad specifically claims “that South Dakota Prison Industries is the largest employer in the state.” Here’s what the latest annual report of South Dakota Prison Industries says:

At the close of Fiscal Year 2005, the Pheasantland Industries Staff consisted of 13 employees. The work force totaled 214 inmates in traditional industries and 62 inmates in private sector industries.

So, if we include inmates as “employees,” the total employment at Prison Industries is 289 statewide. Let’s look at the largest employers in Sioux Falls alone: Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System, 5,729; Avera Health, 3,969; Citigroup, 3,200; John Morrell & Company, 3,200; Sioux Falls School District, 3,000; Wells Fargo, 2,722; HyVee Food Stores, 1,699; WalMart/Sam’s Club, 1,195; Midwest Coast Transport, 1,180; City of Sioux Falls, 1,082; and, First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, 1,033. With less than 300 employees, Prison Industries isn’t even among the top 25 employers in Sioux Falls or the 50 largest employers in South Dakota.

I understand circumstances may dictate changing strategy when thing aren’t working. But even new approaches don’t stop the lies coming from Amendment E supporters. And I’ll resist much comment on the hypocrisy shown in the fact Stegmeier is suing the No on E committee for claiming it is lying in the campaign.


Lying is the same as alcoholism. Liars prevaricate even on their deathbeds.

Anton Chekhov

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