The North Dakota State Penitentiary is a maximum security prison. As of a few years ago, the prison held a record level of more than 15,000 inmates.
KX News spent the afternoon with staff to learn what it takes to run such a large scale facility.
No matter what your specialty is at the State Penitentiary, it can be a dangerous job. Everyone we spoke with today has a passion for their job, and that’s why they come back day after day.
It takes a village to run a maximum security prison.
Correctional Officer Sergeant Dan Lukach adds, “We’re trained well, we work well together as a team.”
In any given unit there are close to 200 prisoners for about every seven officers on duty.
Sergeant Lukach explains, “It is interesting and fun to work with them so that you can see some changes. We give them the opportunity to change. We can’t change them, but we set examples and do what we can to give them the chance to change. And that means they’re getting out.”
But it’s not just Correctional Officers that make up a prison. Stacie Dailey runs cognitive behavioral groups.
The State Pen. Human Relations Counselor says, “So to help guys learn to cope with anger, have healthy relationships when they get out, hopefully, be sober. We also work on life skills, mental health counseling.”
Today, one group discussed how they handle conflict and consequences.
Dailey explains, “If we don’t provide them the tools, what’s going to change? I mean if we can try and help them; give them skills, tools, have somebody that’s going to listen and care about them.”
And after two staff assaults and a lockdown last week, prison staff I spoke to remain optimistic.
Sergeant Lukach says, “We don’t expect to be assaulted, or you know, expect to have problems. We do our best, but we’re going to deal with people when they’re angry. People get angry, so it doesn’t matter where you are, you have to deal with it.”
Dailey adds, “But it’s always in the back of your mind, you know, being aware and making sure that you are safe, and that your co-workers are safe, including security staff.”
Lukach says it’s like any other job: ‘Things go bad sometimes and you just deal with it.’
We also spoke with the Pen.’s Community Resource Manager. She works with volunteers and anyone else who wants to visit and help improve the prison or the lives of those that live there.
Recently the State Penitentiary has been working hard to bring more people from outside the prison, in. It’s all in an effort to teach the community that prison isn’t always as it’s portrayed on TV.
It also reminds inmates what life is like after prison, because they will soon be community members once again.
Those that work at the State Pen. consistently put others first, and are willing to risk their own safety to see change and opportunity for the prisoners.
Today, we had the opportunity to give back to the hard-working prison staff.
A few of our team members, including Anchor Lauren Kalberer, Reporter Renée Cooper, Meteorologist Dave Holder, and our Photographer Jerrod Schumacher, sat down over sandwiches and got to know people from each area of the prison.
We got to know some dedicated Correctional Officers, as well as the Warden, a couple of Nurses, and some Mental Health Professionals.
Each and every one of these people is essential to making such a large facility run smoothly.