Employees, inmates speak out over Jackson County Jail security c - KCTV5

Employees, inmates speak out over Jackson County Jail security concerns

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Inmates, guards and former employees are speaking out about cell doors that don’t always latch and the use of padlocks to secure inmates inside the Jackson County Detention Center. (KCTV5) Inmates, guards and former employees are speaking out about cell doors that don’t always latch and the use of padlocks to secure inmates inside the Jackson County Detention Center. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Inmates, guards and former employees are speaking out about cell doors that don’t always latch and the use of padlocks to secure inmates inside the Jackson County Detention Center.

The facility is under investigation after an accused murderer was able to get a hold of jail keys, unlock his cell and wander around the prison for hours.

Dante Jefferson is charged with burglary and raping a female inmate. That crime prompted KCTV5's investigative unit to comb through incident reports and reveal the crimes happening inside the jail.

Here’s a look at the increasing number of the annual incident reports taken by the Jackson County Sheriff.

  • 2013: 13
  • 2014: 60
  • 2015: 145
  • 2016: 161

Employees speak out

Sam Williams is a former correctional officer who worked at the Jackson County Detention Center for more than six years. He says locks didn’t always latch and prisoners escaped their cells on a daily basis

“Go down there to conduct a check, you'll see four or five inmates easily get out of their cells,” Williams said.

Williams said he helped transport an inmate to the hospital in February following a sexual assault.

The sheriff’s report shows eight inmates were able to escape locked cells and pry open the victim’s cell. The victim said he was stripped, beaten, held down and sexually assaulted.

“He was in shock pretty much with what happened to him,” Williams said.

KCTV5 also received numerous emails from other employees who were not guards.

A former nurse, who asked KCTV5 to protect her identity, said she was sexually assaulted by an inmate and another time she was punched. She quit her job concerned about cell doors and safety.

“Locks are not in good order and doors are easily jammed open,” the nurse said.

Additionally, current employees reached out to KCTV5 through social media, emails and phone calls. They provided information but declined to speak on the record, worried they would lose their jobs.

They all informed KCTV5 that workers have been instructed not to speak to the media.

Padlocks keep some cell doors closed

The Jackson County Detention Center is now padlocking cell doors as a temporary fix until they can be replaced.

Guards and inmates tell KCTV5 the entire third floor of the detention center is now padlocked.

Documents show more than $800,000 has been approved for cell door replacements, but it’s not clear when renovations will be completed.

KCTV5 received the following response from a Jackson County Detention Center spokesperson:

“As with any building, especially one of this type and age, it is necessary to make certain repairs over time. The type of repairs done varies depending upon many different factors. For example, a plumbing issue may be solved in the short-term with a plunger, but eventually may require more costly and time-consuming repair to prevent the re-occurrence of the problem. The documents provided are a testament to the County’s commitment to making such repairs. Due to security concerns we cannot provide any further information on the specifics of the door repairs.“

Dan Vasques is the former warden of San Quentin Prison. He currently works as an expert witness in jail and prison litigation.

Vasques said  he has never heard of a jail using padlocks to secure cells and questioned potential problems.

“That's a lot of cells to have to open manually in the event of a fire or some disaster,” Vasques said.

Vasques said improvements are needed.

“If you don't want to put the money up front then you are going to put it in the back end when you get litigated and get sued so either way it's going to cost you,” Vasques said.

Lawsuits expected                                                                               

The two female detainees who report being raped in August by male inmates have retained lawyers.

Both say they will file lawsuits. It is simply a matter of paperwork. One man has been charged but more criminal charges could follow.

The male inmate who was sexually assaulted by eight other inmates in February said he suffers from nightmares and lasting physical injuries. He plans to file a civil suit.

The criminal investigation is ongoing in his case.

Another inmate who was beaten by other prisoners over the summer promises he will sue the jail too.

The sheriff’s report shows he was beaten for more than 90 minutes and guards failed to visually check on the pod after the victim pressed the panic button two separate times.

The incident report shows other prisoners mopped up blood and the victim was delayed medical attention for days despite visible injuries. That former inmate said the other prisoners were trying to force him into the shower to rape him.

KCTV5 was contacted by an inmate who says he was raped in the shower in August.

The sheriff’s department confirmed the investigation labeling it a “deviate sexual assault.” His family confirms they have hired a lawyer and will sue.

If all of the former inmates file as promised, that would mean the Jackson County Detention Center faces five civil lawsuits.

If you have a concern over the Jackson County Jail, email us.

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