Jackson County legislators on Tuesday ordered the hiring of an independent auditor to review all procedures and operations of the jail in Kansas City where two women were sexually assaulted Aug. 26, and two adjacent facilities.
Criminal charges are expected soon against the perpetrator or perpetrators of the attacks at the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Tuesday.
One woman allegedly was raped by three men and another was sexually assaulted, county officials said last week, in what appeared to be a major breach of security within the jail complex in downtown Kansas City.
At least two other investigations are being conducted. Kansas City police are investigating the sexual assaults, as is former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, who was hired by the county executive’s office.
The legislative audit, however, would take a broader look at the entire county corrections department, which hasn’t been thoroughly evaluated in years. Although the legislature employs an auditor on staff to review financial matters, and to conduct performance audits of entire departments, legislators rarely order the latter.
Legislator Dennis Waits said it was important to have an outside expert on jail operation give a frank assessment. The resolution gave no deadline for selection of an auditor or completion of the audit.
The department’s facilities at 13th and Cherry streets consist of the correctional center, which houses up to 154 male and female inmates sentenced on Kansas City municipal charges; the Jackson County Detention Center, which holds five times that many people arrested or awaiting trial on state charges; and a holding jail for people newly arrested on Kansas City charges.
Although operated separately, they are connected by what the county website describes as a “secure underground walkway.”
The women who were assaulted were being held on Kansas City charges in the county-run facility. After the incidents, city officials released nine women and moved the remaining 12 female detainees to the Platte County jail.
The assaults occurred a year after the county announced the existence of an FBI investigation into alleged physical abuse by guards of inmates at the detention center.
A citizens task force appointed by then-County Executive Mike Sanders conducted hearings and produced a report last fall. Higher pay for guards, who the task force concluded were underpaid and overworked, was among the recommendations.
Guard pay has gone up since then.
Another suggestion was that the county seek accreditation from the American Correctional Association. On Tuesday, corrections department director Joe Piccinini announced that he has hired Steven Raines to oversee the four-year accreditation process.
Raines most recently was assistant warden at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
Also Tuesday, Piccinini announced that he has hired a former Wyandotte County jail administrator, Maj. James Eickhoff, to oversee jail operations.
The current director of operations will now oversee jail administration, Piccinini said. The duties formerly were combined.