Jackson County grand jury files report on poor conditions at jai - KCTV5 News

Jackson County grand jury files report on poor conditions at jail

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File photo - Jackson County Detention Center. (KCTV) File photo - Jackson County Detention Center. (KCTV)

A Jackson County grand jury has filed a 70-plus page report with the 16th Circuit Court that details the poor conditions at the Jackson County Detention Center, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced today.

The report also makes recommendations on how to address the problems and it took 9 months to write.

The report has three main headings under the executive summary:

“A. Failure to Manage Funding

B. Failure to Plan for Safety and Security

C. Failure to Clean and Maintain”

Baker also issued a letter to the citizens of Jackson County, alerting them of the grand jurors service and diligence in examining the conditions of the jail.

The letter said, in part:

“Based on that statutory authority, I requested a review of the Jackson County Detention Center in August 2017. Our Presiding Judge and Circuit Judge responsible for oversight of the Grand Jury agreed to grant the grand jurors such authority.

In turn, the Grand Jurors went to work. The work was so extensive that a second grand jury was empaneled to continue this important work. The attached report is the culmination of that work and represents hundreds of hours of testimony, review of material, writing and their own walk through the facility.”

The full report and letter can be viewed below. Or, tap the links below on mobile devices:

When members of the grand jury toured inside the jail, they found unbelievable safety and security problems like overcrowding, cell doors that don't lock, insects and mice in cells, toilets don't work, and inmates who aren't always fed.

The report discusses how inmates appear to control sections of the jail, including what inmates call “Thunderdome,” knowing how to exploit a broken system.

The grand jury reports they were stunned to learn that guards or co's were outnumbered by a staggering ratio of two guards for 190 inmates.

They also talked about how inmates order hits from jail: "They used those cellphones to communicate with criminals outside the Jail in order to coordinate the murders of key witnesses."

Grand jury members say the jails horrific conditions must be addressed right now while the county decides if it's time to build a new jail.

The grand jury also included how obnoxious and condescending Frank's White's office was about this review. They said the jail was too complicated and these average people just wouldn't understand.

Well, the grand jury members quoted that in their report and write that it is that county that doesn't understand how bad this jail is.

The Jackson County Jail has been the focus of numerous KCTV5 News investigations as people report rapes, brutal beatings, and horrific conditions. We have reported on the deaths and lawsuits that you pay for with your tax dollars.

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. has issued the following statement in response to the report:

“Jackson County is committed to providing a safe and secure facility for inmates, staff and the entire community. Under the leadership of new Director Diana Turner, the County continues to make significant improvements to the existing facilities and operations. The County strongly disagrees with many characterizations as presented by the Prosecuting Attorney, but we will use this report, as we have with every other opportunity, to grow and better our facilities and operations for this community.

The Prosecuting Attorney is using this report as a political opportunity to point out decades-old problems of deferred maintenance and attribute them to the current administration. Therefore, the County is disappointed with the conclusions reached by the Prosecuting Attorney.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s report appears to be the product of both misinformation and a strong desire to incarcerate more people pre-trial. Widespread issues regarding facility conditions, staff retention and overcrowding persist at detention facilities nationwide. However, issuing redundant reports and finger pointing is not a solution.

Additionally, the factually accurate portions of the Prosecuting Attorney’s report are largely regurgitated from prior evaluations and have been addressed or are in the process of being fixed.

On November 27, 2017, the Prosecuting Attorney sent a letter to me, which stated, in part, ‘Spending more time to further study the overcrowded and unsafe conditions at the detention center is simply inappropriate.’

It is interesting to note that the Prosecuting Attorney’s study of the Department of Corrections was ongoing at the time she made the statement and she continued that study for months after she released the statement above. In addition, while refusing to participate in an open process that involved the community, the Prosecuting Attorney chose to conduct a secretive process where her staff controlled the process and wrote the report.

The problems faced by the County’s detention facilities will require the concerted action of everyone if we are to create sustainable change. These are complex issues and the Department of Corrections initiatives will continue to be evaluated and modified over time, as necessary, to achieve our objectives. We remain deeply committed to leading the efforts to address these problems plaguing facilities across the country.”

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