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Jackson County Corrections Department Director Resigns Amid Criticism

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Several Jackson County legislators called for new leadership at the troubled downtown jail on Tuesday. It only took until Friday to get their wish.

Jackson County Corrections Director Joe Piccinini resigned, County Executive Frank White said at a news conference Friday. And pressure from the county legislature was not a factor, White said. 

“No, that didn’t put any pressure on me. I said in the Legislative meeting that I had full confidence in Joe and his staff and that carried through until we had a conversation and he just thought that was the best thing to do, to go with new leadership and move forward,” White said.

The deputy director, Diana Turner, will take over as acting director. She has 26 years in the corrections sector, including stints with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Piccinini was appointed to the top post in 2015 by former County Executive Mike Sanders. While Piccinini had no experience in corrections, he had served 30 years in law enforcement, including as chief of police in Lee's Summit.

White wants the new director to have a strong corrections background.

"You want someone who has a passion for that type of work. A passion for the community. A passion for the correction officers and just a passion for safety and security," White said.

Turner made her first announcement as director, saying the officer who was assaulted on Thanksgiving is out of the hospital.

"We're delighted to report that our officer has greatly improved. He's doing very well," she said.

Turner added that jail management is trying to get more officers into that particular part of the facility, which, overall, is overcrowded and understaffed. On Friday, the jail had 43 open guard positions, several open lieutenant positions and the jail was about 50 percent over capacity. 

Sam Zeff  is KCUR's Metro Reporter. He's also host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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