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FBI, County Investigate Abuse Of Inmates In Jackson County Jail

Frank Morris

The FBI is investigating repeated use of excessive force by guards at the county jail.  

The problem came to light last month, when a nurse told the county’s acting corrections director, Joe Piccinini, about an inmate hospitalized with serious injuries.

Piccinini says the county looked into the issue and discovered that a group of four corrections officers may have used excessive force on inmates on at least three other occasions between May and July of this year.

They (the incidents) all involved one team of officers on one shift,” said Piccinini at a press conference in Independence, Missouri. “There does not appear to be any racial component to the use of force incidents,” he said.

One the things the FBI will be looking into is whether or not there were civil rights violations. Two of the prisoners were black, at least one was Hispanic. Three of the four guards involved are black.

Piccinini says the officers involved are no longer with the county, and that the inmates are no longer in custody.

The county also launched a task force to look into issues that may compromise inmate custody. County executive Mike Sanders says the jail building itself may be part of the problem.

“There are huge systemic issues in terms of the deteriorating structure of that facility,” says Sanders. “I think what you could absolutely say is that if you were building a modern correctional facility today, it would look nothing like the detention facility in downtown Kansas City as it’s existed for 30 years."

Sanders says that the fact that the slit-windowed brick jail building downtown is built like an office building makes it hard to maintain and makes transferring prisoners difficult. 

Sanders says he wants the task force reconditions back fast — with in two months.  He says the criminal investigation into abuse at the county jail may take considerably longer.  

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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