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Segment 1: Public defenders are calling prisons during pandemic ticking time bombs

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 scare, individual correctional facilities in Kansas and Missouri have decided to release certain prisoners, but public defenders and advocates say a statewide approach is needed to avoid a crisis behind bars.

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Segment 1: Public defenders are calling prisons during pandemic ticking time bombs

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 scare, individual correctional facilities in Kansas and Missouri have decided to release certain prisoners, but public defenders and advocates say a statewide approach is needed to avoid a crisis behind bars.

Segment 1: A career change introduced one man to the hidden flaws of the American justice system.

Jason Hardy's time as a parole and probation officer in Louisiana revealed a system that makes a prisoner's re-entry into society difficult. Today, he describes the misinterpreted freedom of being released from incarceration and the unfavorable working conditions for officers.

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Kyle Mead got more than he bargained for after he agreed to a one-year contract to temporarily house Kansas City inmates.

Mead is the president and CEO of Heartland Center for Behavioral Change. After ending its contract with the Jackson County jail in June, Kansas City offered Mead a $3.2 million contract to provide 110 bed spaces for what he said he thought would be inmates detained for low level offenses.

Segment 1: Heartland Center for Behavioral Change was not equipped to accept the full array of inmates brought in by the Kansas City Police Department.

Accepting prisoners from the Kansas City Municipal Court system was initially seen as a chance for the nonprofit organization to link inmates with resources that could help them reintegrate into the community. In retrospect, Heartland Center's CEO said serving as a temporary jail "is outside of our scope" of ability.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two employees of the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department have been charged in connection with an altercation involving an inmate at the county jail in September. 

David Toland, 47, was charged with felony aggravated battery for physical contact with an inmate that could have caused "great bodily harm, disfigurement or death."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City could once again house inmates and detainees in the downtown Jackson County jail after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Sheriff Darryl Forté reached a deal in principle Thursday.

Since June the city has used a patchwork system to house prisoners. Some have gone to two county jails in Missouri and about a hundred have been housed at the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change.

“Our view is that this is in the best interest of public safety in our community,” Lucas said after a meeting at the sheriff's office in Lee's Summit.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas has approved a proposal to renew contracts with jails in other counties to house some of its inmates.

Wyandotte County Detention Center caps its in-house inmate population at 430, but over 500 inmates are in custody. Jail Warden Jeffery Fewell said space and a lack of staff contribute to the need to house inmates elsewhere, which he calls “farming out.”

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City officials are concerned by ongoing issues at the city's temporary jail, including six escapes, a death, an assault and now, an attempted suicide — but there seems to be some disagreement over who is at fault.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said he's been "incredibly underwhelmed" by Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, where the city moved municipal inmates in June after ending its contract to house inmates in the Jackson County jail.

Segment 1: Germany's prisons emphasize rehabilitation and resocialization for their inmates.

Germany is doing a lot of things differently than the U.S. when it comes to criminal justice, and they've got a lower inceration rate to show for it. In prisons there, staff are trained in things like psychology and communication, and they're paid just as much as police officers. This is all to promote a reintegration approach, which focuses on returning inmates back into their communities. 

Segment 1: Jackson County legislators answer questions of current budget, property tax and working with county executive Frank White.

Jackson County lawmakers say recent budgeting and property tax issues have caused county residents to distrust their local government. Legislator Jalen Anderson attributed the root of the problem to a lack of transparency and communication between the legislative and executive branches. "The time for talking is done. There needs to be change now," Anderson said. 

Segment 1: Davids discusses gun violence, antisemetism and hate, and "Sharice's Shifts"

The August break that federal legislators get is often called a recess, but Rep. Sharice Davids' schedule suggests it's anything but. While back in her home district, Davids shares the concerns she's been hearing from her constituents, and the issues she's focused on for the next session.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

Since Kansas City, Missouri, transferred its inmates from the Jackson County jail to the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change in late June, one inmate has died and two have escaped.

An inmate was found dead Tuesday at the facility at 15th and Campbell, according to police. They have not disclosed the inmate's identity or provided other details. The incident is under police investigation.

Another inmate escaped from the facility overnight Tuesday.

Segment 1: Missouri's new rules on bond authorizes judges to look for alternatives to cash bail or confinement.

Office of Missouri Governor

Before Kenneth Wilson became a Missouri House member, he worked his way up the ranks in the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. It was there, he said, his view of crime went from “bad guys go to jail” to seeing dads lose their jobs because they were jailed for not being able to pay child support.

And that’s when Wilson, a Republican from Smithville, thought there must be another way. 

The Jackson County Detention Center has been a contentious topic in city and county politics, with a lot of the public debate focused on questions of funding and space. But conditions for inmates, most of whom are awaiting trial, continue to be concerning for those who know the facility.

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Criminal justice advocates in Missouri hope that new statewide rules will keep poor defendants out of jail because they can’t afford bail.

But one Kansas City public defender is concerned that poor defendants will have to stay behind bars before trial due to the cost of electronic monitoring devices.

Segment 1: Mark Dupree wants to make the Unified Government's justice system more equitable.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree talked with us about the summer expungement program, a new conviction integrity unit and the prosecution of Lamonte McIntyre, and calls from community members to fire Police Chief Terry Ziegler. It all fits into his larger effort to correct past wrongs in his jurisdiction.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Counties across Missouri hoped this was the year that the Department of Corrections would make headway on the $20-$30 million they’re owed for housing inmates who eventually go to state prisons.

But legislators allocated only $1.75 million more to address the backlog. Missouri's practice of reimbursing counties in this way is unique in the United States, and local sheriffs and county leaders say it’s time for a better solution.

Updated at 12 p.m. Tuesday with comments from Gov. Parson:

A state incentive package aimed at getting General Motors to expand in Missouri is running into a major roadblock in the state Senate, threatening to derail some of Gov. Mike Parson’s priorities with less than a week left in the legislative session.

Six Republican senators who object to the expansion of job-training aid and a fund that would help finance the closing of economic development deals led a filibuster Monday on what is generally a quick procedural step to begin the day. That prevented any other work from getting done, as the filibuster, which began around 2:30 p.m., stretched into the night and early Tuesday morning.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Misha Webb, 41, said she is grateful this Mother's Day.

Last month, Webb got a call that her 60-year-old mother was in jail, after police said her car had been swerving and that she failed a breathalyzer test. With $500 of her rent savings, Webb bailed her mom out. She said she was relieved she had the cash on hand.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

There is a chance that there might be two new jails in Jackson County in the next few years — one for the county and one for Kansas City.

On June 25, the city will need to house its inmates and detainees somewhere else besides the downtown Jackson County jail. Last year the county ended its contract with the city, saying Kansas City needed to double the amount it paid Jackson County.

Platte County

Platte County residents on Tuesday will vote on a half-cent sales tax that would fund an expansion of the county’s 180-bed jail. The tax would raise $65 million and run until 2025.

The expansion would include about 200 additional beds as well as space for the prosecutor’s office and an additional courtroom.

Platte County Undersheriff Erik Holland said the building’s deteriorating conditions and overcrowding have made it unsafe for staff.

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Segment 1: Prison consolidation, small pay bumps and more transparency are key to success in Missouri corrections department.

Since taking over Missouri's Department of Corrections nearly two years ago, Anne Precythe has been busy. She's charged with turning around a state agency that's struggled to retain staff and to keep inmates and prison employees safe from assault. Today, Precythe filled us in on the steps she's taken to ameliorate the issues her department is facing.

Luke Martin / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County legislators had lots of questions for Sheriff Darryl Forte, given that he just took over the troubled downtown jail.

But at a budget hearing Tuesday they got few answers since the sheriff was absent for much of the meeting. A sheriff's office spokesman said Forte was in a deposition during the hearing, but he did show up toward the end. He sent civilian jail administrators in his place. 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Jackson County's new sheriff says he's trying to make the department "an environment where it's not fear-based, it's respect-based."

When the previous sheriff of Jackson County resigned in the midst of a sex scandal, former Kansas City police Chief Darryl Forte was asked to serve as interim sheriff. On Nov. 6, he was selected by voters to fill the post for a full term. Forte told us of the policy and personnel changes he has made already, and what he's working to do for a department he says is dysfunctional.

Missouri state Rep. Brandon Ellington, wearing a black hoodie and glasses, sits behind a microphone.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: A Kansas City state representative spotlights poor conditions at a Northwest Missouri correctional facility.

Crossroads Correctional facility in Cameron, Missouri, is still recovering from a violent riot on May 12. In the wake of that uprising, which involved more than 200 inmates, the facility was placed on lockdown. The inmates were denied hot meals and family visits for 4 months. Today, we discussed the conditions inmates are still dealing with. 

Segment 1: Regaining the right to vote is a defining moment of reintegration.

The right to vote is a privilege many Americans take for granted. On this episode, we discuss what regaining the right to vote means to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Segment 1: Local man's shares story behind an American prison riot during the Vietnam War.

50 years have passed since a riot occured at a notorious American military prison in Vietnam. A jail to house not enemy fighters, but American soldiers. On this episode, we learn about a Kansas City native's involvement in the uprising and the meaning behind it. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County has hired one of the biggest providers of jail healthcare in the country to provide service at the downtown jail. However, the company has a history of being sued for poor care.

Over the past ten years, Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH) has been sued 108 times in 16 states, according to Justia.com which tracks federal cases online. Several of those lawsuits are in Missouri and Kansas.

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