KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A consultant says a county jail in Kansas City, Missouri, requires immediate help because it can’t retain enough corrections officers to control a dangerous situation.
CRA Inc. consultant Jim Rowenhorst presented his assessment to Jackson County legislators Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported . He cited a situation in which one corrections officer was in charge of 130 inmates and an instance when two corrections officers were overseeing 190 inmates.
“There is no doubt (the inmates) are running the housing units,” he said.
The county raised wages to $12.60 an hour last year, but the move hasn’t kept the lockup from running below minimum staffing.
Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence said the situation is so bad that judges and lawyers cannot count on defendants getting to court for legal proceedings because there is no one to escort them to the courthouse. He also said that public defenders, particularly women, are “frightened to death” to meet their clients in jail because there’s likely no one to respond if they have to push the emergency button in the visitation rooms.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said county legislators don’t seem to have a sense of urgency among to address the situation.
“It boggles my mind how it got to this place,” he said.
County Executive Frank White released a statement saying he’s encouraged by Thursday’s public discussion.
“Improving conditions at the jail is my top priority, and I am not taking this situation lightly,” he said. “… This problem did not happen overnight and it will not be fixed overnight.”
The County Legislature hired CRA in February to look at jail operations. Rowenhorst said the initial concern was living conditions at the jail, but that those problems have seen great improvement.
The decline in jail staff has been partly due to losing guards accused of physical or sexual abuse of inmates. Four former guards at the jail were indicted in April in connection with the 2015 beating of an inmate, allegedly in retaliation for a previous incident.
“There are good people working at the jail, and they deserve better than what they’re getting,” Sharp said. “We’ve got some bad people there, and we’re attempting to weed them out.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com