Prosecutor wants Jackson County Sheriff to take over jail

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker is asking that control of the Jackson County Detention Center be transferred from the county legislature to the sheriff.

In a letter sent to the legislature Monday, Baker described the jail as one of the most serious problems the county is facing.

"For the good of Jackson County, it is time fill the leadership void and make changes that will improve the way the jail is run," Baker said in the letter.

This comes after Baker released a scathing report by a grand jury on the state of the jail on May 11. The report described numerous problems having to do with overcrowding at the facility. 

After that report was released, Jackson County Executive Frank White blasted Baker, accusing her of using the situation as a "political opportunity."

Baker fired back in her letter Monday, saying it was "discouraging" that officials were seeking to find errors in the report, rather than solve problems at the jail. 

She also said in her letter that officials said there are 754 beds available to state offenders at the jail but, as of Monday, 864 inmates were being held at the jail. 

"We were in overflow on the floor. On two mats.  Like I said there's ants on the floor, too. Six people in cells that are like 6-by-9 cells. It's bad," said Keyaira Fleming, who left jail Monday night. 

 

 

Baker said, due to the slow progress at the jail, filing a federal consent decree would be the next step if county leadership doesn't address the issues. 

Another just-released inmate, Eric Verner, said "Now I know doing crime is wrong and I was wrong and I admit all my faults, but that jail is tragic. That's a tragic end, for real. Pray for us y'all."

County Legislator Dan Tarwater III said he supports transferring power to the sheriff and will formally bring it up at Monday's regularly scheduled meeting. 

"None of this stuff would be accepted in a standard business area. Something like that happened, you would get fired immediately. In this situation it just kind of goes away," he pointed out.

After Baker released her letter Monday, Jackson County Legislature Chief of Staff Caleb Clifford released the following statement:

“The Administration is appreciative of the work that was undertaken by the Grand Jury, for the time and effort put into evaluating the information that it received and the resulting report. The report presented by the Grand Jury does highlight important and difficult issues that face the Jackson County Detention Center and other detention facilities throughout Missouri and this nation. These are issues that the Administration will continue to address with long-term and short-term actions. The Administration will continue its work with the Legislature in understanding these issues, devising a course of action and authorizing the funding necessary to address these needs. The Grand Jury report is a significant document that will be given all due consideration in implementing best practices and making important decisions regarding detention issues.”

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