Government & Politics

Five weeks after sexual assaults, women are returned to Jackson County jail

Kansas City has returned female detainees to the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center (right) at 505 E. 13th St. The Jackson County Detention Center (left) is just east, at 1300 Cherry St. The two jails share a booking area.
Kansas City has returned female detainees to the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center (right) at 505 E. 13th St. The Jackson County Detention Center (left) is just east, at 1300 Cherry St. The two jails share a booking area. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Reassured that Jackson County has improved security within the jail complex at 1300 Cherry St., Kansas City officials are once again entrusting the county with female detainees held on municipal charges at the Regional Correctional Center.

The city removed all 23 women incarcerated there five weeks ago after two detainees reported they had been sexually assaulted.

Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte said at the time that no female inmates would return until the county addressed security issues that endangered the women. Female detainees were transported instead to the Clay and Platte county jails after booking at the downtown jail.

But as of Monday, women were once again being housed at the Regional Correctional Center, which shares the block with the much-larger Jackson County Detention Center, as well as a lockup and booking area that serves both facilities.

County officials declined to comment on what security improvements they’ve made since they learned of the assaults on Aug. 26, citing “ongoing investigations at the detention center.”

City officials did not address specifics, either. But in a written statement Thursday, city spokesman Chris Hernandez said top officials at the Municipal Court and the city manager’s office have been working closely with Jackson County to address security issues that put women at risk.

“While we are satisfied that conditions are safe enough to return our female inmates and detainees,” Hernandez wrote, “we have intensified our oversight of jail operations and will continue to monitor conditions there.”

The Jackson County prosecutor last month charged Dontae D. Jefferson, 29, in connection with one of the assaults. He is charged with first-degree rape, first-degree burglary and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse for an attack that occurred Aug. 26.

Charges haven’t been filed in the other alleged assault in which, according to a police report, a woman said she was raped by three men she thought were guards.

According to court documents, Jefferson was caught on video surveillance cameras wandering the jail’s halls for almost two hours with two other inmates before he allegedly raped a woman. Another inmate allegedly had let Jefferson out of his cell with a key he had taken two days before when a guard left her keys in his cell door.

Jefferson was in jail awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge and five other felonies in an April 2014 attack at a gas station that left a man dead and his son paralyzed.

Authorities have not explained how he would have had access to the holding area in the middle of the night. Inmates awaiting trial on state charges are held in the adjacent detention center.

After the attacks, Jackson County legislators ordered the hiring of an independent auditor to review all procedures and operations within the department of corrections. Tuesday is the deadline for bidders to submit their qualifications for the task.

The county hopes the successful candidate can begin work on the audit by Nov. 1.

Separately, County Executive Frank White has hired former U.S. District Attorney Todd Graves to conduct an independent investigation even as at least two other criminal probes continue.

In addition to the Kansas City Police Department’s investigation into the other alleged sexual assault, the FBI has been investigating for more than a year alleged instances of guards brutalizing prisoners at the detention center.

And a recent federal trial of a guard charged with civil rights violations for allegedly stomping a prisoner in 2011 resulted in a hung jury. His retrial is set for early next year.

Mike Hendricks: 816-234-4738, @kcmikehendricks

  Comments