New details uncovered in ongoing problems at Jackson County Jail

The Jackson County Jail is under the microscope after prisoners found keys, wandered the jail in the middle of the night and are accused of committing more crimes inside the jail. (BigStock)

The Jackson County Jail is under the microscope after prisoners found keys, wandered the jail in the middle of the night and are accused of committing more crimes inside the jail.

KCTV5 News reviewed incident reports and have confirmed there are at least two sex assault investigations involving prisoners leaving locked cells in the middle of the night and evading guards.

One attack was publicly reported by the jail in late August. The other happened in February. A vicious attack went unnoticed in June and lasted 90 minutes.

*Warning: Details in this story may be graphic in nature.*

The woman who says she was raped inside her jail cell in August said her attack happened in the middle of the night.

"I was asleep and woken up and he was having sex with me and I was trying to fight back. I was so terrified," the victim said.

Prosecutors report three inmates were captured on video wandering the jail between 2:40 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. after obtaining a guard’s keys.

Dontae Jefferson is charged with rape, burglary and sexual assault. He also faces murder charges for gunning down a father in front of his son and paralyzing the young boy at a gas station.

Jefferson was a problem inmate prior to the attack. Records show he assaulted a female guard in July.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department's report of that attack includes an interview with Jefferson in which he questions what could be seen on camera.

"Well did you see me do it? Did the video show me do it?" Jefferson said.

There is still no clear public explanation for why an accused murder was housed near female inmates who faced minor charges.

Two females report being attacked that night. One faces municipal assault charges for getting into a fight with another adult involving her child. The other alleged victim is also a mother who faces shoplifting and trespassing charges for stealing food at a grocery store.

February sex assault

Another sexual assault investigation is underway that also involves cell doors being opened in the middle of the night.

The alleged victim said other inmates snapped a broom handle in half and used it as a tool to pry open their cell doors and enter his cell. He said sheets were draped over rails so the guards could not see what happened inside his cell.

That inmate said he was stripped, beaten, held down and sexually assaulted.

There are eight suspects in that case. It is being investigated by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

Problem doors and poor security

Former and current inmates report jail cells inside the Jackson County Detention Center don’t always latch and are easy to pry open.

The jail now uses padlocks to keep some cells secure. KCTV5 News was able to verify this information with current and former guards who agreed to supply information but did not want to be publicly named.

A former jail trustee contacted KCTV5 to report on the security problems he saw inside the jail. A trustee is an inmate granted certain privileges and has access to additional sections of the jail.

"Some of the doors didn't close, or if they did close, they could be pulled open there was no locking mechanism that worked," said the trustee who did not want to be publicly named.

The trustee reports the jail uses padlocks to reinforce problem doors.

“Steel loops on there, and they are padlocking the doors shut with a Master Lock. That is how they kept the inmates in the cell ... with a Master Lock," the trustee said.

The trustee calls security inside the jail an embarrassment and says he saw guard’s keys simply lying around on three separate occasions. He said a dock door was left open and inmates could have simply walked out of the jail. The trustee says inmates are well aware of security issues.

“They know the jail is understaffed. They know the security procedures are lax,” he said.

Incident reports increase

The number of incident reports inside the jail has skyrocketed in the past three years, according to Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

In 2013, there were 13 reports and 60 in 2014. And last year, it more than doubles to 145 reports. Just this year alone, there have been more than 161 incident reports taken by the sheriff's department.

It’s unclear if problems were under-reported in the past and outside investigations, including the FBI, prompted new reporting procedures.

KCTV5’s investigative unit reviewed 2016 incident reports which included inmates being charged with assault for spitting and throwing liquids on guards. Other reports are more troubling.

June beating

In June, an inmate was beaten for 90 minutes. The incident went unnoticed and unreported until the inmate’s mother visited the jail and noticed visible injuries.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department's incident report spells out troubling details. Video clearly shows the inmate being punched, kicked and choked by other inmates. Prisoners even mop up blood during the attack.

The victim suffered black eyes and cuts to his head, face and along his arms. At times, the prisoner is crouching under a table.

The report also states the inmate hit a panic button inside the pod for help but no guard physically checked.

Investigators write the prisoner went more than 24 hours before receiving any medical treatment. The report notes a padlock inside a sock was used in the attack.

The incident report lists eight suspects and includes a statement from the victim who explained prisoners were trying to rape him in the bathroom but he refused to go.

“They were saying if I didn’t get into the shower, they were going to beat my ass again, and I said, 'Looks like you’re going to have to beat my ass then,'” the victim stated.

Jackson County responds

The Jackson County Department of Corrections said they take the safety of their inmates very seriously.

Everyone, including inmates, has the right to be free from sexual abuse and harassment," the department said in a statement.

In accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), Jackson County Department of Corrections has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of inmate sexual abuse and harassment. The department works diligently to prevent such abuse or harassment from occurring and reports any allegations of sexual assault to an independent law enforcement agency for investigation.

"As part of our efforts to prevent sexual abuse and harassment, the department has invested well over a million dollars in safety and security improvements in the past year. These improvements have included increasing the number of security cameras within the facility, initiating the replacement of all outdated door locking mechanisms, providing PREA training to all new hires and hiring experienced corrections professionals to oversee the re-accreditation of the facility," the sheriff's department said.

The county has hired former United States’ Attorney General Todd Graves to investigate the jail. The FBI is also investigating allegations of guard misconduct.

Several of the victims interviewed in this report have hired lawyers, and civil suits are expected.

Copyright 2016 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved


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Investigative Reporter

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