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Corrections officer assault puts pressure on officials to fix problems at jail

Posted at 8:41 PM, Nov 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 21:41:22-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Friends of the corrections officer attacked at the Jackson County Jail Wednesday night say he’s one of the nicest guys they know.


The attack was brutal.  Court documents say 20-year-old inmate Johnny Dunlap is shown on surveillance assaulting the officer for eight minutes, at times using a plastic cone.


The officer went to the hospital in critical condition, with broken bones in his face.


According to friends, the officer is now breathing on his own and will recover.


Jail officials have not released the officer’s name or his condition.


The latest attack shines a light on the long list of issues at the jail, and puts pressure of community leaders to come up with a solution.


“It’s a very hard-working group of individuals and we just need to do a better job by them” task force member Lisa Pelofsky said.


Pelofsky, a former police board commissioner, says the situation at the jail is dire.


She was on a task force two years ago, and will continue serving on the county’s latest committee announced just last week.


“The first time around, we were really looking more at practical procedures that can be enhanced. This is going to be a little more comprehensive, on a broader scale,” Pelofsky said.


The problems at the jail haven’t changed since the last task force met.  Some of them include overcrowding, short-staffing, low pay, abuse, and security.


This time around, Pelofsky says the task force will decide what a future facility would look like, meaning whether to build an entirely new jail. A top priority will be to prevent attacks on corrections officers.


“Voters have expressed interest in public improvements,” Pelofsky said, referring to the recent approvals of the streetcar and a new single terminal at KCI.  “I think voters are saying to their elected officials, 'we know things need to be repaired.’”


Pelofsky says having a multi-level facility makes managing flow of inmates and employees difficult because they’re “isolated” on different floors. Changing the structure of the facility will be looked at when the 14-member panel meets.


Whatever this task force comes up with will be sent to a public vote.


Pelofsky says things have changed in the last two years, including changes in county leadership and the consolidation between the county and KCPD when holding detainees awaiting arraignment.