$4.6 Million Pennington County Jail Upgrade Project Moving Forward

By Rachel Leber

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Pennington County Board of Commissioners’ approved entering into an agreement with Denver-based Venture Architects Inc. on Oct. 17. The architecture firm will provide design, bidding and construction services to upgrade the existing Pennington County Jail in Rapid City, a project that is finally on its way to becoming a reality after many years of discussion.

While the future budget for the entirety of the project will be $4.6 million, the four-to-one vote authorized Pennington County on Oct. 17 to enter into an initial $867,000 contract, which includes the cost of a jail study that had already been conducted by Venture.

While general upgrades will be made, the focus of the project will be a renovation of the laundry and kitchen facility in the jail. The existing jail was first built in 1990, and an annex to the jail was built in 2006, but the new inmate population currently exceeds the capacity of the existing laundry and kitchen facilities. This is largely because the county’s federal inmate population has seen a significant increase over the past few years. In addition to serving its own population of inmates, the Pennington County Jail also currently serves between 200 and 250 detainees at the county’s juvenile and detox centers.

Once complete, the new facility would be able to accommodate up to 1,250 detainees — twice as many as it currently accommodates — including those off site, with plans to build another annex building in the future.

In addition to increasing the service capacity for inmates, the upgrades will be made in response to water and sewer infrastructure issues with the existing kitchen and laundry facilities. “This is all about core functions of the jail,” said Mike Peterson, county building and grounds department director in a recent interview with the Rapid City Journal. “If your kitchen and laundry is not functioning, the jail’s out of business.”

The kitchen/laundry facility construction is just one part of a planned four-phase construction project. The relocation of the covered, secure parking garage for law enforcement vehicles, an addition to the jail’s administration offices and the construction of a corridor within the jail for inmate transfers are also part of the overall project.