Jackson County is hiring another consultant to study shortcomings at its troubled downtown Kansas City jail in the wake of last summer’s sexual assaults there.
Two firms are already looking at jail security and other operations of the county Corrections Department at a cost of more than $330,000.
On Tuesday, the county Legislature will consider retaining HOK Inc. of Kansas City to focus strictly on the physical conditions of the county’s correctional complex at 13th and Cherry streets. That contract is valued at $224,000.
The buildings include the nine-story Jackson County Detention Center, the jail annex, the Regional Correctional Center and Albert Riederer Community Justice Complex.
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The red-brick detention center first opened in 1984 and suffers from plumbing problems and other deterioration, including many cell doors that wouldn’t lock prior to a repair program that began last year.
Also Tuesday, legislators plan to meet privately with representatives of a Vienna, Va., firm, CRA Inc., which is being paid $300,000 to study operations at the Jackson County Detention Center and adjacent Regional Correctional Center.
CRA, whose principals have backgrounds in law enforcement and corrections, has been studying the jail’s workings since the first of the year.
Its contract with the county called for CRA to finish its report in April. But this year’s legislative chairman, Scott Burnett, said Monday that the CRA report would be done in August, when HOK is set to finish its work.
“Our goal is have them both done at the same time,” Burnett said.
Both studies grew out of a resolution passed Sept. 6, a little more than a week after two sexual assaults within the facility. Authorities said the attacks occurred when inmates were able to move freely within the facility without being detected for more than an hour.
Because of that security lapse and other problems, legislators ordered that an outside expert be hired to undertake an overall performance audit of the Corrections Department.
The results could guide the county’s decision-making on what changes to make, if any, in jail operations, as well as physical upgrades and the possibility of replacing the facility entirely.
At the very least, Burnett said Monday, “we’ve got to maintain what we have for now.”
Last year’s sexual assaults have resulted so far in one $275,000 legal settlement being paid to one of the women raped by a male inmate who allegedly got access to her cell with a guard’s key.
That incident also prompted County Executive Frank White to commission a separate investigation by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves at a cost of $30,000.
Graves’ work was originally to have been completed by Dec. 31, but the probe is ongoing. Graves said he is close to finishing.