Jackson County jail staff will get refresher training on how to manage inmates and how to better protect themselves as a result of last week’s brutal attack on a guard by an inmate.
Department of Corrections Director Joe Piccinini said additional security measures might also be taken in the housing unit where the attack occurred and has ordered an investigation of the attack.
Piccinini announced his plans in a memo to the nine Jackson County legislators, who met Tuesday morning to discuss a full range of issues, including the jail.
The memo is Piccinini’s first public comment on the events of last Wednesday night, when an inmate battered an unidentified corrections officer for nearly eight minutes before help arrived.
The officer suffered what were then described as critical injuries to his head and face when he was attacked by an inmate in a housing unit known as C-pod in the Regional Correctional Center. The guard’s condition had improved on Monday.
The RCC is adjacent to the Jackson County Detention Center at 1300 Cherry St., and holds prisoners facing trial or serving out their sentences on municipal charges.
Johnny Dunlap, 20, of Kansas City, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection with Wednesday’s beating.
Dunlap was being housed in a unit set off for municipal inmates who are either being disciplined or need to be segregated from the general population for some other reason, including their own personal protection.
Inmates in that unit spend all but one hour of the day locked in their cell. During that hour, they are allowed to exercise, take a shower and make phone calls. All other inmates remain locked up.
Guards are supposed to keep the inmate in sight at all times during that period, but somehow Dunlap was able to get behind the guard last week, Piccinini said, and he was attacked from behind.
Surveillance video showed the guard being attacked four separate times.
“The officer was struck repeatedly with fists and then with a plastic cone used to mark wet floors,” Piccinini wrote. He did not respond directly to questions about why no one rescued the guard after the attack began, but said he was equipped with a working radio that had a distress button on it.
Also, he said there was a distress button at his work station and there was a working land-line phone.
The memo does not address whether anyone was monitoring security cameras at the time of the attack.
In a brief interview at the Courthouse, Piccinini confirmed that no one was keeping an eye on the video feed from that housing unit. Normally only inmates on suicide watch are monitored around the clock,. he said, although staff can look at the feed from other cameras at will.
With more staffing, live-stream video monitoring could be expanded, he said.
The beating has heightened concerns about jail security. On Monday, county Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker cited the beating as her reason for declining to serve on a new jail task force formed by County Executive Frank White.
The task force is report back to White with its recommendation in six months. Baker said immediate action needs to be taken to address her concerns.