Jackson County corrections changes needed, task force reports


Jackson County needs to pay jail guards more, train them better and make other major changes, a task force reported.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders formed the task force in August to study policies and procedures at the Jackson County Detention Center.

That came with an announced FBI investigation into four incidents from May to July, in which four now former guards injured four inmates.

On Monday, Joseph Piccinnini, acting corrections director, said the task force recommendations “are a solid blueprint from which we can build better policies and procedures.”

He also said he agrees corrections officers should be paid “commensurate with the region.”

Sanders also said the county is already working on other recommended changes, including new programs for inmates and detainees awaiting court.

Alvin Brooks, president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, was chairman of the five-member task force. From its report:

The detention center has the lowest salaries for corrections officers in the region, starting at $11.45 an hour.

Before 2015, that was enough to attract and keep officers.

From 2007 to 2013, turnover was between 22 to 37 percent. But in 2015, turnover was about 43 percent.

Overtime spending was flat from 2011 to 2014 at $1.6 million a year, but has jumped in 2015 (through mid September) to $2.05 million.

“The rapid recovery in the local economy has caused CO turnover rates to grow faster in recent years, and has affected the quality of applicants,” the report states.

Turnover and overtime have also has taken away time for training and staff development and affected things like staff morale, staff-to-inmate ratios, and inmate programs and services.

Among other recommendations:

  • Pursue American Correctional Association accreditation.
  • Create programs to help inmates and detainees awaiting trial, including reentry and work release.
  • Improve facilities for safety and efficiency, including a feasibility study for a new and better facility.
  • Evaluate both medical and mental health issues.
  • “The county executive should continue to support the new leadership and management at DOC to ensure a smooth transition and continued commitment to these recommendations.”
  • Consider appointing an ombudsman or committee to review progress of the recommendations.

Sanders also noted Monday that the county has continued to increase funding for corrections, while the state has slashed its funding share by more than half.

From the report: From 2008 – 2015, the Jackson County supported overall budget for its department of corrections went from $12.2 million to $17.7 million, a 45 percent increase.

During the same time, state reimbursements for it decreased from $4.7 million to $2 million, a 57 percent decrease.

Sanders said they need more state funding for that and more state and federal grants to help with reentry and mental health issues.

“We can’t do it all alone,” he said.

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