Jackson County director of corrections resigns amid problems at jail

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County's director of corrections, Joe Piccinini has resigned amid criticism surrounding the county jail.

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. made the announcement in a news conference Friday. Deputy Director Diana Turner will serve as the acting director. Turner was appointed to deputy director two months ago. Captain Isaac Johnston will step in as the acting deputy director of corrections.

"At this point, Joe does not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and ensure our corrections facility reaches the level of excellence our staff, inmates and community deserve. I respect his judgment and regretfully accept his resignation," said White in a news release.

Piccinini was appointed to the position in 2015. Previously, he was the chief of police for the Lee's Summit Police Department.

White said Piccinini was not forced out. 

“Well, Joe actually came to me and he didn’t want to be — he really felt like he didn’t want to be in a position where things just weren’t getting done. And he felt like it was in his best interest and in the best interest of the county that we look for new leadership going forward,” said White. 

The jail has been criticized for numerous problems, including overcrowding and understaffing, in recent months.

Diana Turner, acting corrections director at the Jackson County Detention Center, said right now, they are are 44 corrections officers short of what they need to staff a facility with 900 inmates. 

Most recently, the jail's security was questioned after an inmate brutally assaulted a guard for eight minutes in November. He was seriously injured in the attack but Turner said his condition is improving.

“We are doing what we can, evaluating each shift, shift by shift, to do what we can to get more staff into that section of the facility," said Turner.

Turner said it’s difficult to make meaningful changes to improve safety because of the physical design of the jail and the extreme shortage of jailers.  

In June, the jail was raided after an alleged bribery scheme investigation. In August, the jail suspended visits from the public because of "unforeseen absences" with staff.

Inmates have also complained of a culture of abuse within the jail.

White announced the creation of a new task force to look at problems within the jail. But that move was met with criticism from Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who said that more immediate change is needed.

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