Community Service Program Helping Inmates Turn Life Around

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- A community service program offered by the South Dakota Department of Corrections is designed to help inmates give back and gain experience and a Sioux Falls inmate says the program is helping him turn his life around.

21-year-old Joshua Johnson has been working at Feeding South Dakota for two months. For eight hours a day, he works in the produce section and earns 25 cents an hour. The job is part of his requirements to complete his 5-year prison sentence for possession of a controlled substance

“Didn’t really have my life together at all, just making a bunch of choices I regret now,” says inmate, Joshua Johnson.

He says he never expected to be in this situation and wants to do better for himself and his family.

“The fact that my family has to see me in here kind of feels disappointing. So I want to change that; I hate them seeing me in here,” says Johnson.

Johnson says since the Department of Corrections has provided him with this community service program, it’s taught him the importance of helping others.

“Being able to come and give back to the community, you don’t get too many opportunities being in our situation. So it’s nice to be able to do that,” says Johnson.

That’s the goal that Feeding South Dakota has for all inmates who participate and it’s helpful to have extra hands to run the food pantry.

“In fact, we have staffs that were former inmates that now work in our organization,” says Feeding South Dakota’s Chief Executive Officer, Matt Gassen.

They also hope inmates are able to gain experience that they can use after they finish their sentences.

“That they are going to have a skill that they might be able to use on the other side,” says

The Department of Corrections couldn’t agree more.

“We all believe in second chances and people do change. Our hope is when they get out of here, that they don’t come back and that they do the positive things out there,” says Department of Corrections Associate Warden, Troy Ponto.

The money the inmates earn pays for fines and fees they owe. Sex offenders and inmates who have a felony hold or detainer are not eligible for the program.

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